Monday, August 26, 2013
The city of Nickerson will raise the property tax rate by nearly 12 mills to help cover debt payments kicking in on the city's new wastewater treatment system.
"We are trying to ease into it as much as we can," Nickerson City Clerk Robin Schmitt said.
From 2009 to 2012, the city council decreased the property tax rate each year. The council held the rate steady in 2013.
But this year, the city learned it needed 19 mills to cover debt payments on its new sewer lagoon system.
The Nickerson city council was split, though, on how to come up with the money. The proposed 2014 budget included a mill levy increase of about 11.5 mills.
"The vote went 3 to 3. The mayor broke it (with a vote in favor) and the levy went through," Schmitt said.
The mayor, Jim Gladden, says based on the situation, his vote in favor of locking in that budget was the only choice for the city.
"We would have run out of money if we didn't" Gladden said.
The city was able to settle on an increase of 12 mills instead of 19 in large part because it cut its police force last October in a cost-savings move, Schmitt said. The city has made additional cuts since then, Schmitt said.
"I think we've cut back as much as we could cut back," Gladden said.
But some people in town say it feels like the city council is trying to make up for past poor decisions all at once.
They say the 2014 budget has saddled them with an increased tax payment that will be hard for some of them and their neighbors to cover.
"They're not too happy about it," said Brad Berridge, one of three city council members to vote against the property tax increase. "It's pretty big to people on fixed incomes and that's who I'm looking out for."
Berridge says he believes there was more room for cuts to the budget and he believes the city could have brought in some money by selling equipment it doesn't use.
"I could see maybe a flat (rate) this year or maybe a one or two mill increase but a 12? I just can't go for that."
The city will be selling police department equipment to bring in more money, city leaders said.
The debt schedule for the wastewater project is 40 years long.