City budget gets final council approval

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – No property tax levy increase meant no comment at a public hearing on the proposed 2016 city budget Tuesday.

The City Council quickly approved the $7.2 million budget which requires the same $4,008,042 levy as the previous five years and an equalized tax rate of $6.48 per $1,000 of property value – the fifth consecutive year the tax rate has declined.

The council voted to accept the final report from the Mullet River Study Committee and decided not to change trick-or-treat hours, designated on the last Sunday of October each year by ordinance.

“I want to thank all the department heads in the city and Administrator (Brian) Yerges,” Alderman Shawn Marcom, chairman of the council’s Finance and Personnel Committee, commented after the budget presentation by Yerges.

“I think we’ve gotten into a very good cadence with the budget process. The budget process seems to get easier every year with the due diligence we’re following to control spending,” Marcom concluded.

Yerges did note that there will be no electric or water rate increases in the coming year, but that the sewer rate will increase roughly 25 percent.

He blamed that on declining revenues the past several years that will be exacerbated by the closing of the Dairy Farmers of America plant at the end of the year.

DFA provided about 13.3 percent of Plymouth Utilities’ sewer revenues annually, according to Yerges.

It will mean an increase for the average residential customer of $7.12 a month in sewer charges, Yerges said.

“There’s not much choice but to increase rates if revenues decrease,” Alderman John Nelson pointed out, saying that most of the costs for the sewer utility are fixed costs.

Yerges said the lower property tax rate will mean a decrease of about $12.40 in the tax bill for the owner of a $155,000 house – the average value in the city.

However, he noted, the recycling fee – which is included on tax bills - will be increased by $9.50 next year, meaning a net savings for the average homeowner of around $3 on their tax bill.

The council accepted the report from the Mullet River Corridor Study Committee, which focused on possible alternatives for the Mill Pond, the river trail and the downtown/ Stayer Park area.

“By adopting this report, you are not necessarily setting anything in motion or endorsing any particular proposal,” Yerges assured the council.

He said the report would be made available to the public on the city’s website (www.plymouthgov.com) for reading or for downloading.

Several aldermen urged the public to take advantage of the opportunity to access the report on the city’s website.

“A lot of different ideas came out,” Alderman Jim Sedlacek, a member of the study committee, said of the committee’s deliberations. “If the people have a concern about any of these items, I suggest they get this (report) off the city site and then voice their opinion with their alderman. If you have your own idea of what should be done, contact your alderman.”

“I’m looking at a document like this as very exciting for the city. I would encourage anybody to download and take a look at this,” Marcom added.

Council President Charles Hansen and Alderman Jack Fernsler both reported that they had received requests from some constituents that the city consider changing trick-or-treat hours when Halloween falls on a Saturday.

Under an ordinance adopted years ago, the city’s trick-or-treat hours are always from 3 to 5 p.m. on the last Sunday in October. This year, with Halloween on a Saturday, every other community in the county held trick-or-treating that day.

But Hansen and Fernsler both added that they had received more calls asking that the current system, on the last Sunday in October, be kept in place.

“You’ve got five more years before you have to worry about this,” Fernsler said of Halloween falling on a Saturday again.

Nelson expressed concern that Plymouth being the only municipality with trickor treating on Sunday created an influx of people from outside the city.

“When we’re getting vans full of people coming from other communities, when we’re getting bombarded by these people, I think it’s just gotten out of hand,” Nelson stated.

Mayor Donald Pohlman asked Police Chief Jeffrey Tauscheck for his feelings on the issue.

“I guess I would leave it,” the chief responded. “(If you) have it on Oct. 31, what do you do if it’s a Monday through Friday? You’d have to change the hours. I would caution you against trick-or-treating after dark.

“There is nothing that says a resident has to distribute candy. Just turn your lights out. It’s a choice, not a requirement,” Tauscheck concluded.

The council took no action on changing the trick-or-treat hours.


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