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Property tax rate unchanged, department budgets approved
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After reviewing the city’s department budget requests for fiscal year 2015-16, the city’s Finance Committee is recommending no property tax increase.
“I don’t see that we need to raise taxes,” said Finance Committee chairman Everett Brock. “We have adequate funds to proceed without a tax increase. It will be my recommendation to the board to leave the tax rate the same as it is.”
Committee members include Aldermen Ben Newman and Mike Neal.
“I don’t see a reason for it to go up and I don’t see a reason for it to go down,” said Newman. “I think we are at a good stable position with our revenues and our expenses.”
The city’s current tax rate is $2.0804. A recent reappraisal by the state adjusted the tax rate to be revenue neutral, lowing it from $2.09 to $2.0804, so the city’s property tax revenue would remain the same.
Committee members voted unanimously to recommend to the full board the city’s tax rate remain at the current certified rate.
Before that decision was made, Brock informed members the ending balance on June 30, 2016 is more than $3 million which is what he asked Finance Department director Shirley Durham to make sure the city had.
“What I asked Shirley to do was come up with a way to make the ending balance next year $3 million or more,” said Brock.
The task was accomplished by including the local option sales tax recovered from the county back into the city’s revenue totals. In 2013, the board passed a resolution to earmark those funds specifically for capital improvement projects in the city.
“We had the money from the lawsuit standing, basically, outside the budget,” said Brock. “We can use it to pay capital improvements. We can pay our capital loans with that. It was outside the budget. It was not included in the city’s revenue. It’s legal, we found out, to take it and put that money into revenue.”
The city’s projected cash balance was almost $2.5 million. Currently, the local option sales tax fund has $476,000 and is projected to have $750,000 in it by the end of the fiscal year.
Committee members reviewed and approved the departmental budgets for Administration, Public Works (which includes vehicle maintenance, animal control, landscape management, street aid, and solid waste collection), Park Theater, Fire, Police, Parks and Recreation, Planning and Zoning, and Water departments.
During the reviews, Newman voiced a desire to begin a recycling program.
“I don’t know how much this would cost, but I would like to start, or at least look at starting, a recycling program for the city,” said Newman. “Not just a drop-off facility but something where the city goes out and picks up recycling from all the people that pay for water use and trash pickup. There are a lot of grant opportunities out there.”
Newman asked if money could be put in the budget now or if he has to get the “ball rolling” in committee first.
“I think you’ll have to get the ball rolling first,” said Brock. “I don’t know how much to put in the budget for it.”
Alderman Steve Harvey voiced a desire to add sidewalks to N. Chancery Street, from Walmart to the intersection of Chancery Street.
“Is it too late in the game to think about North Chancery Street sidewalks,” said Alderman Steve Harvey.
City administrator Bill Brock says the city’s Public Works Department doesn’t have the time to install a sidewalk along N. Chancery Street this year.
“We probably couldn’t do it this year, even if we had the money,” he said. “Next year will be a good year to push for it.”
The consolidated budgets, which also passed unanimously, will be presented to the full board for its consideration along with the recommended tax rate.