Even if levy stays put, taxes could rise
Washington City Administrator Brent Hinson has suggested keeping the city’s levy the same next fiscal year, but property owners could still pay more on their tax bill.
The city’s levy is $15.82 per $1,000 of valuation. A person who owns a $100,000 house pays the city $803 a year, because only about half of the property value is taxed. However, since the state is increasing the percent of property that can be taxed, property owners would pay the city $836 next fiscal year, even if the city’s levy were the same.
The Iowa Department of Revenue issued a press release in October 2012 in which it indicated that residential property would be taxed at 52.8 percent of its value. That is two percentage points higher than it was taxed in 2011 when the figure was 50.8.
The taxable value for agricultural property rose a couple of percentage points as well, from 57.5 percent to 59.9 percent.
The water and sewer rates would rise, although not as steeply as they did in 2011. The water and sewer rates are expected to rise 3.5 percent.
Under Hinson’s proposed budget for 2013-2014, the city would take in more money in revenue than it spent on expenditures by $122,000. Hinson said that the city’s goal is to eventually have $914,000 in the general fund balance. The city is on pace to reach that goal in four years.
Hinson proposed raising the non-union city salaries 2.5 percent. He also recommended hiring an office assistant who would work 20 hours.
The police department is the largest budget item, representing 38 percent of the city’s expenditures. The fire department represents about 11 percent of expenditures.
Hinson said the only real “hiccup” in the 2013-2014 budget is that the police’s budget will be $100,000 more than last year’s budget. He said that he expected the police to spend less money in 2012-2013 than it has.
Councilor Bob Shellmyer said that the city was taking on an influx of people from the Quad Cities and Chicago, and wondered if the city should hire a new officer to deal with additional problems.
“People say they can’t walk through Central Park,” he said. “We have problems in Sunset Park. We’re closing buildings because of meth problems. I don’t like raising a budget, by any means, but if we don’t help the police department out what will happen? They help everybody.”
Hinson said he spoke with Washington Police Chief Greg Goodman and Goodman told him that the next step is to hire a school resource officer, who would be in the school full time during the school year. During the school year, the school would fund it but the city would fund it over the summer.
Hinson said he would like to hire an intern to make digital maps of the city’s water and sewer lines. The city uses mostly paper maps to find water and sewer lines. He said engineering technician Keith Henkel can do that now but he usually has more pressing needs to attend to.
The budget contains $45,000 for a new leaf vac, and $125,000 for a street sweeper. The current leaf vac broke down last fall because it was picking up wet leaves. Shellmyer asked why the city needed a new leaf vac when it’s a piece of equipment that is used for such a limited time during the year.
Hinson said that the public expects the city to pick up leaves, whether they are wet or dry. Shellmyer agreed, saying that the leaf vac also saves people from the temptation of burning their leaves.
The municipal swimming pool is holding up well, Hinson said. He said that is a testament to the work that parks director Tim Widmer puts into it. He said one large project that will need to be done next fiscal year is to sandblast the water slide, which will cost about $27,000.
The budget includes money for training a new accountant. City Accountant Joe Myers announced that he would retire February 2014.
Hinson recommended restoring the funding for outside entities to what it was a few years ago. This means that the Washington Economic Development Group would get $20,000, PAWS ‘N’ More would get $15,000, Main Street Washington would get $15,000, the tourism committee would get $15,000 and $4,000 would be dedicated to the fireworks.