City taxes would drop for Minot residents under a proposed 2011 budget, although rising home valuations and any decision by the city council to hire more employees could change the picture.
The city has released a proposed $68.7 million budget and a $69.5 million alternative budget that includes another 16 employees in areas such as police, fire fighting, planning and street maintenance. A public hearing on the budget will be held Sept. 13.
"I feel that we have put together a very good budget and have tried very hard to hold costs and still try to provide the services that are needed," said Cindy Hemphill, city finance director.
The owner of a home valued at $100,000 would see the city's share of the tax bill drop from $487 to $476 under the $68.7 million budget. Any change in home valuation will vary for each taxpayer, but if a $100,000 house experiences the average 9.5 percent valuation increase, taxes would go to $521. On a $150,000 home, taxes would drop from $730 to $714. With the average assessment increase, taxes would be $782.
The alternate budget adds 5.49 mills to the property tax, or $25 to the bill for the owner of a $100,000 house and $37 for the owner of a $150,000 house with no valuation change.
The alternate budget includes new staff positions for a Geographic Information System coordinator, engineering technician, two airport operation technicians, two light equipment operators, two heavy equipment operators, three fire fighters, three police officers and a truck driver and laborer in the sanitation department. If the council approves adding the heavy equipment operators, the city would need to buy an additional blade.
2011 Budget Facts:
-The property tax request for $12.4 million is up from $11.4 million in 2010.
- Total salary and benefit costs are up nearly $1.2 million to $20 million. Health insurance costs are estimated to rise by 12 percent.
- Total spending is up 2.6 percent to $68.7 million, or 3.8 percent to $69.5 million in an alternative budget.
- The average increase in the assessed value of homes from 2009 to 2010 is 9.5 percent.
- Rates for cemetery, bus service, water and sewer are proposed to increase.
A federal grant, if awarded, would cover the cost of the three police officers for three years. The city would be required to keep the positions filled at its expense during the fourth year.
"If you ask any one of the departments that have individuals in the alternate budget, those positions are very important," Hemphill said.
In the case of the airport, the city eliminated two employees this year in privatizing fueling but then saw the number of commercial flights increase from three to nine a day. That's prompted a need to have jobs retored.
"It's so we can provide the services we need to maintain the flights we have worked so hard to get," Hemphill said.
Currently, the city's summer employment is about 450 full-time and part-time workers.
Water and sewer rates also are proposed to go up. For an average residence using 1,200 cubic feet of water a month, the bill for water, sewer, storm sewer and garbage would rise from $69 to $77.
The budget recommends increasing bus passes from $28 to $34 for adults and $22 to $26 for seniors, people with disabilities and students. Mobile Ads ended its contract with the city to provide bus advertising, striking about $10,000 in revenue from the budget that the fare increases would help to make up.
Another rough winter this past year again drained the emergency fund, putting it $111,000 in the red with more winter approaching before the year ends. The proposed budget uses cash reserves to help build the fund back up to about $117,300, the equivalent of 1 mill. But property taxes also are being affected by the need to restore that fund.
One of the biggest factors affecting the property tax levy is the steady decrease in interest income in the past few years, Hemphill said. Estimated interest income in 2011 from investments is $221,514, which would be a decline from $959,692 in 2008. That reduced revenue directly affects the general fund and property taxes, Hemphill said.
The mill levy is estimated to drop from 108.12 to 105.76 because the city's valuation has risen with annexations, construction and some higher assessments to increase the value of a mill by 12.25 percent. The budget's alternate spending plan carries a mill levy of 111.25 if fully adopted.
The budget also proposes a contribution from cash reserves to the City Pension Plan to improve the health of that fund.
Major capital improvement projects planned for 2011 include the 21st Avenue Northwest sewer rehabilitation, Eastside Water Main transmission line and elevated tower and Phase III of Puppydog Sewer improvements.
Other capital improvements planned include asphalt resurfacing at the North and South Hill complexes, a new storage facility for the sanitation truck fleet, a shared-used path on 13th Street Southeast from 18th Avenue to 16th Avenue, upgraded traffic signals citywide, reconstruction of the 6th Street underpass and an upgrade at the water treatment plan.