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City balances budget without parking meter rate increase



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November 03, 2010 | 08:55 AM
For the second year in a row, city property owners will see the same tax rate when their bills arrive in the mail late next month.

City Council members unanimously approved publishing its 2011 balanced budget and notice for the Nov. 22 public hearing with a $5.51 tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value. The city's portion of the tax bill makes up 27 percent of the total. The city is one of six taxing bodies listed on the tax bill property owners will receive in late December.

The city's tax rate was finalized Monday night, one week after council members cut several items and balanced the budget for a few hours. The budget no longer was balanced later that evening Oct. 25 when there weren't enough votes to remove the city assessor and replace her with an assessment firm. That change was expected to save $18,000 in 2011 and $50,000 each year after that. Without that cut, city officials were sent back to the drawing board to figure out how to reduce and balance the budget again.

Since that special budget meeting on Oct. 25, city officials realized the valuation for manufacturing in the city was not included in the previous 2011 budget numbers. Retaining some of the program cuts and the 2010 budget numbers, city officials were able to balance the budget without increasing property taxes or doubling parking meter rates.

On Oct. 25, council members agreed to increase parking meter costs from 50 cents per hour to $1. The extra $200,000 to $400,000 was expected to be used to balance the budget. But Monday night City Administrator Dennis Jordan said because of the additional manufacturing valuation, the budget was balanced without those additional revenues and the council will not raise the rates at this time.

Alderman Todd Krause also said the city's ability to balance the budget was aided by a reduction in expenditures for capital projects. There is only $65,000 budgeted for capital projects for 2011, as opposed to $368,000 last year.

Among the most recent cuts include elimination of the summer brush pickup program ($15,000), the Christmas gift cards for employees ($3,000), Plan Commission wages ($2,000) and Four Season Nature Preserve personnel ($4,000).

Other significant cuts made to the budget prior to the Oct. 25 meeting included 150 shifts of eight hours each for reserve police officers used downtown during the summer. That cut $20,000 from the budget. The Police Department also cut another $20,000 from several budget items.

Raising the cost of adult daily beach passes ($30,000) and raising the business license and fees ($6,000), will increase revenues.

The city's 2011 tax rate means a property owner with a home assessed at $250,000 will pay $1,377 in taxes for city services. In 2009, the city's tax rate was $5.32, in 2008 it was $5.28 and $5.21 in 2007.

For 2011, the city's total expenditures and revenues match at $7.82 million, up 1.9 percent from the 2010 approved budget of $7.68 million. General government expenditures increased 3.8 percent, up to $1.27 million.

Public safety expenditures increased 0.1 percent to $3.42 million. Public works expenditures decreased 0.3 percent to $1.40 million. Health human services expenditures increased the most at 8.8 percent to $1.09 million. Culture, recreation and education expenses increased 2.9 percent while conservation and development expenses decreased 2.9 percent.

The city will pay off $1.058 million in debt in 2011.

Former aldermanic candidate Terry O'Neill wasn't pleased with the budget. During the public comments portion of the special council meeting Monday, he said the city will have to borrow $3.5 million to operate the city at the end of next year. He said there will be a cash flow problem and with "city funds at a near minimum" the council will borrow the money and "sell it to the taxpayers" as capital projects, but "it is actually going to be a loan to cover operating expenses."

The council included in the 2011 budget money to borrow about $3.5 million for capital projects, including road work and a new Fire Department ladder truck. The city has about $2 million in reserve funds and any borrowed money would be used during the next three years for capital improvements only, Jordan said in response to O'Neill. He also said the state ensures borrowed money is used appropriately, not for operating expenses.

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