Sharing the load to cover the budget deficit

City commissioners agreed Monday in a special commission workshop to spread coverage of an anticipated $1.38 million deficit in next year’s budget with increases in tax millage, fire assessment fees, and electric utility taxes according to a report received by Historic City News.

“It’s the fairest way to bring in our non-taxable properties to help carry the weight of balancing our budget,” Commissioner Don Crichlow said of the fire assessment and utility fees, which are paid on all property in the city.

Chief Administrative Officer Tim Burchfield presented the staff budget committee’s recommendation to increase the tax millage rate to 7.5 mills, to bring in $900,000, increase the fire assessment fee from four to six cents a square foot for an additional $325,000, and set a flat 8% tax on electric bills for another $160,000.

Impact on property owners: the millage increase will depend on county property appraiser values; the fire assessment increase will add $30 a year on the average 1,500 square foot home, and the 8% electric utility tax will replace the current 10% tax on the first $100 of a bill and 1% on amounts over.

Under state law, the fire assessment fees and utility taxes must be passed by the end of August. Ordinances will be prepared for commission review August 10 and public hearing August 24.

Traditional budget workshops are scheduled for Thursday and Friday, August 20-21, at 9 a.m., with public hearings on the final budget Thursday, September 3, and Thursday, September 17, both at 5:05 p.m. All are public meetings in the Alcazar Room at City Hall.

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