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City Council approves budget for 2018

Rural valuation still driving up taxes

Monday, March 7, the Osceola City Council approved the fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget. A notice appeared in the Osceola Sentinel-Tribune Feb. 23, but City Administrator Ty Wheeler reported no public comments or requests were made to review the budget. This was a surprise given the posted deficit in spending of over $1 million.

Budget Basics for FY2018

The total revenue for FY2018 is $17,029,210, which includes $2,496,143 in property taxes. The estimated total tax levy rate remained $14.32 per $1,000 in assessed value.  

“This represents no change from prior years,” said Wheeler at Tuesday’s meeting, though the same couldn’t be said for city spending. “The budget posting for this year showed a deficit in the spending of $1,244,670.”

Advance refund savings

“For a one-year snapshot, it would make it appear as though we’re spending way more than what we’re taking in,” said Wheeler, but the numbers aren’t quite what they seem.

“That’s not a deficit as it relates to operations,” he said. “We did an advance refunding of an outstanding bond in 2015. The bond isn’t called until 2018, so those proceeds were accounted for and put in a reserve, and now they’re being spent in 2018 to pay off that outstanding bond.”

The reserve balance is $1,483,535.

Wheeler said the advanced refund saved the city $84,815.13 in interest payments.

Local investments

“The budget includes the replacement of one police vehicle, one cemetery vehicle, additional improvements at Q Pond and also $15,000 for street improvements,” said Wheeler.

Capital improvement projects for FY2018 center on downtown restoration plans, with street lights, underground utilities and sidewalks taking top priority.

The majority of our budget, however, goes to the health and safety of Osceola residents.

“Almost half of our tax dollar budget goes to public safety,” said Wheeler.

Public support

Bill Trickey, executive director of Clarke County Development Corporation, commended the council and Wheeler for a well-planned budget.

“I know Ty doesn’t just look at things in just this year, but he looks out five years when he’s doing these plans,” said Tricky. “He always looks at your competency plan. I think that’s smart. One of the burdens we face down here is low-assessed valuation in rural Clarke County which causes a heavy burden on everybody in the city limits... I think you guys are doing a great job on behalf of all of us.”

Councilman Dr. George Fotiadis also commented on property value, and the way it limits both the city and county budgets.

“What I’ve noticed over the years is always the complaint about the high rate, and it is true about the high individual cost,” said Fotiadis. “You’re looking at shoe string budgets for about five or six counties in this area. You have to give a hand to the county supervisors for doing the same thing.”

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