Council passes budget with PEF donation intact

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The city’s 2015 budget, with a no-change property tax levy and a drop in total spending and the property tax rate, was approved by the City Council Tuesday.

The only no vote came from Alderman Jim Faller, who continued to be opposed to the $100,000 donation to the Plymouth Education Foundation for the Food Science and Agriculture Center at Plymouth High School.

Faller made a motion to remove the item from the capital projects budget and transfer the amount to the city’s reserve account, but the motion failed to gain a second.

The same fate befell Faller’s next motion, to make the donation directly to the school district rather than the PEF, restricted to being spent on the new center.

“We need the money in the city more than they need it for their project,” which the PEF has already met its fundraising goal for, Faller stated.

“I’m not against education,” Faller insisted, then asked, “Where are we going with this? It’s donating to a non-profit organization.

“I spoke to several people today who were all against this $100,000 donation,” Faller continued. “These funds should come from the school district so that all of the district pays into it, so the town of Plymouth pays into it.”

“The fact that the towns do not participate int his is not part of our discussion,” Mayor Donald Pohlman responded.

“This money is in the budget because of a resolution we passed as a council,” Alderman Jim Sedlacek pointed out. He insisted that the council would need to pass another resolution “to take back what happened in the past.”

“It’s not unprecedented in the city to give money to something like this,” Alderman Shawn Marcom said, noting the city’s previous donation to the technology education center at the high school. “This is a longterm investment in the future of this city.”

Former alderman Ron Lade supported Faller during public comments on the budget. “I think the money could have been spent better on repairing streets in the city,” he stated, citing another item in the capital projects budget.

In his presentation on the proposed $7,277,909 budget, City Administrator Brian Yerges pointed out to the council, “We’ve held the line on the tax levy for the last three years.”

The property tax levy for the budget will be $3,508,041, the same as in 2013 and 2014. That will result in a property tax rate of $6.56 per $100,000 of assessed valuation, a decline of 11 cents from the rate in the 2014 budget.

For the owner of a $155,000 home (the average in the city, according to Yerges) that would mean a reduction of $17.05 in the city portion of their property tax bill.

Even with the addition of a $9.50 recycling fee to the tax bill next year that was part of the budget, the average homeowner would see a $7.55 drop in their tax bill, Yerges said.

Yerges presented figures comparing Plymouth to other communities across the state between 7,000 and 10,000 in population.

For those communities, the tax levy per capita was $532.54, while Plymouth is at $476 per capita.

“In the grand scheme of things, our tax levy is right where we expect it to be,” Yerges told the council.

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