The City Council Monday night okayed a one-percent property tax levy hike along with a $48.9-million city budget, including funding for a staff city attorney and public defender’s office.
The tax levy increase will net the city about $45,000 in new funds next year and new construction will add even more, according to City Finance Director Steve Hoglund. The new levy rate will be $1.76 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
But, City Council member Ryan Walters told the Council that the increase really amounts to a loss of real dollars because inflation is running at 1.7 percent. “I have no problem taking the one-percent,” he said.
In recent years, the city has routinely approved increases of one-percent each year. One percent is the highest amount a government entity can approve without a vote of the pubic.
The new budget includes new staff positions.
The budget includes $156,000 in salary and benefits for a staff city attorney. The contract city attorney was paid $69,000 last year and has billed just under $60,000 so far this year.
Also in next year’s budget are funds for converting the city Public Defender from a contract position to a staff position. A full-time public defender and staff legal assistant are budgeted for $209,000 for the coming year.
The city’s current contract pubic defender is the likely candidate for the staff public defender’s position, according to city Administrative Services chief Emily Schuh. But, the staff city attorney position is expected to unfilled while Mayor Gere and the City Council wrestle over the value of the change.
The new budget also includes a large increase in funds for street maintenance. About $1.1-million for street maintenance is in the new budget, which is expected to be used primarily for resurfacing and upgrading D Ave.