2009-06-20 / Top News

City Bumps Tax Rate Down to 8.04 Mills

By Jane Alexander

The Finance Committee approved a 2009 general fund millage of 8.0472 at a meeting Wednesday, June 17, and sent it on to the City Council, which adopted the rate later that evening. The rate was changed since the committee's June 1 meeting, after assessor Joe Stakoe reported that property values didn't go up as much as originally predicted. Taxible value rose by $6,801,735 from last year to $199,300,845, rather than by the $7,122,467 originally assumed.

The levy will still leave the city with $35.78 over its projected budget of $1,593,812.94.

The newly adopted rate used to assess taxes for 2009 is 8.0472 mills, which would raise $1,593,848.72, a decrease from 2008's rate of 8.85 mills, which raised $1,693,991.20.

The committee held a Truth and Taxation Hearing Wednesday night to discuss the millage rate.

"Last year, we had a millage rate of 8.85 and, after our budget sessions over the past several months in the setting of the budget, we're looking at a lowest millage in order to balance the budget as set at 8.0375," said Finance Committee Chairman Mike Hart. "Then, Joe Stakoe announced that we have a lower evaluation than anticipated, which brings us to the question of balancing the budget at a millage of 8.0472. This is still substantially lower than last year, and that will bring us to within $35 to $36 of balance. The finance committee, after meeting two weeks ago, was able to decide the course to take as unanimously recommended that the council adopt the 8.0472 millage."

Mayor Margaret Doud said in the hearing it's important to consider potential decreases in revenue from the state.

"We've tried to keep it in mind as much as possible, as we've said before, we do not know," about the stability of the state revenue, she said. "We've already been notified that we are not going to be getting as much state funding as we would be getting. So that's certainly up in the air. That's just the way it is, that's where we are."

She added that, thus far, the city has not borrowed any funds.

"This is the first year that we have not had to borrow from any fund in the city to balance the budget," she said. "Everybody should be commended."

The city can reduce its millage rate this year, in part, because the debt incurred to build the new fire hall is paid off and the city no longer needs the 0.4256 mills allocated for that. Most of the rest of the millage reduction comes from other debt reductions and cuts made to the general fund.

Because there are no increases in millage rates, the committee was not required to hold a hearing, but the committee felt it was important to do so.

Also discussed during the committee meeting was the engagement letters for city auditors. The city approved engaging Rehmann LLC for the 2008-2009 fiscal year audit, but decided to solicit bids for other financial services. Previously, Rehmann has done audits for the city as well as other bookkeeping tasks and monthly updates. The committee decided to seek bids for a Certified Public Accountant with municipal experience, hoping to save money.

The committee also addressed the sale of the unit one at Rowe Condominium, which the city owns, and decided to lower the asking price from $300,000 to $298,900 and try to sell it independently for 30 days, after which the committee will hire a real estate agent. Police Chief Jim Marks attended the meeting and asked that police officers living in the unit be given notice if they are required to vacate the unit.

The committee is also concerned about where to house the officers if they sell the unit. According to Mayor Doud's assistant, Kelly Bean, the committee needs the money from the sale of the unit to finish work on the officers' future residence, the old medical center building on Market Street.

Also mentioned at the meeting was the leasing of the post office. The current lease agreement with the city will end in September and the committee plans to determine a new leasing rate. Under the old agreement, the U.S. Postal Service was given a 50 year lease for $1 a year and allowed to build the post office building. After 50 years, which will be in September, ownership of the building will revert to the city.

The committee also discussed a proposed new paint color for the outside of the library. The new color is light blue. The committee decided that the issue should go before the Buildings and Grounds Committee.

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