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City approves FY 2015 budget

Published: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 9:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 9:17 a.m. CDT

Osceola City Council’s fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget has been approved.

“This was not an easy budget year, obviously, for us,” said Ty Wheeler, city administrator/clerk, during a March 4 city council meeting. “There were a lot of changes that went into the property-tax laws that we had to compensate for and begin to try to plan around.”

In the city’s FY 2015 budget:

• Total expenditures, including all capital projects, were $16,108,000.

• Total revenues were $16,393,000.

• Property taxes accounted for $2,364,000.

• The property-tax levy rate was $14.68 per $1,000 in taxable valuation.

Taxable valuation

Wheeler said there were two big changes this year that deal with taxable valuation, including it being the first year of a property-tax rollback where all commercial and industrial properties, telecom properties and railroad properties were rolled back by 5 percent.

“The city will receive a backfill for those commercial and industrial properties, however, not for the telecom or railroad properties,” Wheeler said.

According to Wheeler, the second change with the taxable valuation was the equalization process at the county level, and where the residential building valuation went down by 15 percent.

“Overall, we saw a decrease in that total taxable valuation,” he said, “a change in how that levy rate is calculated, in so far as what gets thrown into the taxable valuation formula, which caused us to go back and review what our levy had been historically and, perhaps, take a little bit different approach.”

Tax revenue approach

Wheeler said the city took a tax revenue approach to the budget, instead of a tax rate neutral approach, in order to keep the tax dollars the same and not worry what the rate did.

As for other aspects of the FY 2015 budget, Wheeler said the sanitation fees will start to pay for all solid waste costs, and not just for the contractor. Capital improvements will continue as planned, and the city will continue to use its local, grant and casino funding. Also, sewer rates will continue to go up.

“The bottom line is that we tried to minimize the impact on the check that the property owner had to write out,” said Councilman Dr. George Fotiadis. “In other words, the goal of the budget was to try not to spend any more money than in the previous year, despite the message of the rate.”

State shift

Fotiadis said there was another message the public should know.

“There’s a desire on the part of the statehouse to shift local property tax burdens away from commercial interests and onto the interests of the private individual homeowners with the notion that this would generate a good economy and encourage more businesses to enter the state.” he said. “And, I guess, all we’re able to do is work within that.”

If the public doesn’t like this type of trend, they should address it with their local representatives, Fotiadis said.

Councilman Glenn Schaff said he thought there was more budget “cutting” the council could have done before it went to approval on the agenda.

“It seems to me like there’s several alternatives to cutting, and I think we need to take a look at that,” Schaff said.

Public comment

During the council meeting, a public hearing was held on the FY 2015 budget. Dr. Jim Kimball asked Wheeler to state the city’s total capital expenditures, revenues and property taxes, which Wheeler did.

Fotiadis thanked Kimball for taking a vested interest in the city’s budget.

“This is probably about the most important document we prepare,” Fotiadis said.

Schaff votes no

The council approved the budget with Schaff being the only councilman voting no.

“The reason I voted no on that, I believe that there’s several places we could cut and save raising any more tax to keep that levy where it was the past four or five years,” Schaff said. “And, I’d like to make the pubic aware that I’m voting no on that simply because there’s room to be cut.”

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