Council passes zero levy increase budget

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The City Council adopted the hold-the-tax-levy-level 2014 city budget Tuesday.

The $6.79 million budget drew no comment at a public hearing before the council adopted it unanimously.

It requires a property tax levy of $4,008,042, the same as in the last three city budgets.

City Administrator Brian Yerges, in his presentation on the budget, noted that the city’s tax levy last year was sixth-lowest among 19 cities in the state with a population between 7,900 and 9,400.

“Even though the tax levy has remained the same, because of decreased equalized property values (in the city), the equalized tax rate has actually gone up from $7.02 to $7.05,” Yerges noted.

Because the city’s assessed property values have not kept pace with declining equalized values, Yerges explained, the assessed tax rate will actually decline, from $6.68 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $6.67.

He noted that the gap between total equalized and assessed valuation in the city is roughly 6 percent. A gap of 10 percent or more would trigger a staterequired city-wide reassessment, Yerges added.

“TIF growth continues in the city,” Yerges said.

He told the council that the city has about $83 million in property in its existing tax incremental finance districts. That amount continues to grow and is up from just under $29 million eight years ago, according to Yerges.

TIF districts represent 12.82 percent of the city’s total equalized value, Yerges added. “There will not be any TIF districts created in the city of Plymouth until TIF 4 and 5 close, and that’s not for a substantial time now, so there really isn’t an option to create additional TIF districts,” because of state law limits, he explained.

He did point out that, when the TIF districts close – scheduled for around the year 2025 – all of the valuation within the districts will go back on the tax rolls and push the tax rate down.

“Probably in the first quarter of next year we’re going to do a TIF analysis,” to determine the present and future financial status of the districts,” Yerges added.

The budget maintains city service levels and calls for pay increases for most city employees of 1.66 to 2 percent, Yerges said.

It also provides capital project cash funding of $825,100 for 2014 projects and earmarks another $150,000 for future capital projects, including $50,000 for a future fire truck purchase.

Yerges said the current estimated cost of the new fire truck is around $125,000, “so we’re at least $75,000 short prior to any cost adjustment.”

Fire Chief Ronald Nicolaus said the department is in the process of applying for a grant to help pay for the fire truck purchase.

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