Council rejects tax increaseSuperior’s City Council is struggling with the numbers and the impact they could have on local taxpayers.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Superior’s City Council is struggling with the numbers and the impact they could have on local taxpayers.
The council rejected a budget that would increase the city tax levy by 3.8 percent in 2013.
Even with the levy increase, the city would need to cut about $179,000 in expenditures, which could trim $100,000 in funding for the planned Tower Avenue project, $29,000 from general street maintenance and $25,000 from each the sidewalk program and equipment requests.
Without the increase, the city would need to eliminate another $431,000 in expenditures to balance the city’s budget — a budget that no longer has a contingency fund because of declining revenues.
Without the contingency fund, the city is unable to address issues such as razing condemned properties in the city, said Mayor Bruce Hagen. He said the city won’t have the funding to deal with unknown costs such as building demolition or emergency repairs such as those necessitated by flooding in June.
That’s after the police department has already held open three positions — an assistant chief and two patrol positions, and the fire department that has held two positions open and laid off one firefighter, and still faces a budget shortfall this year that needs to be addressed.
Finance Director Jean Vito said if two additional firefighters are not hired in the coming year, the city is facing the very real possibility of browning out a fire hall — operating with only enough personnel to man two of the city’s three strategically located fire halls when firefighters are sick or on vacation.
That wasn’t even a consideration when the council adopted the budget adjustment in August, Vito said.
While the city administration said some services would be compromised or have to be eliminated without the levy increase, the majority of councilors — after rescinding a budget that included the levy increase — voted against the raising property taxes by $29 per $100,000 of property value.
Councilor Dan Olson, who participated this week’s council meeting by phone, said his goal has always been to provide the best possible service to citizens at the least possible cost. Olson recommended a lower levy increase and tightening up on departments that need better monitoring.
After all, councilors said the county, school district and other taxing agencies could increase those costs further. And the cost of storm water and wastewater fees could be on the rise as well, further adding to taxpayers’ burden.
However, what other taxing authorities might do is unknown.
Douglas County Administrator Andy Lisak anticipates presenting the county budget Thursday to the Administration Committee, which guides the direction the budget takes before it’s considered by the county board in late October.
Lisak said county administrators are looking to the future to come up with a long-term plan, and are still sorting through information for next year’s budget.
“We want this budget to not only look at this year, but look years into the future,” Lisak said.