Spring Park Council discusses tax increase

By Lorrie Ham

Mayor Bruce Williamson surprised Spring Park city councilmembers on Dec. 5, with a motion to reduce the proposed 2017 levy by one percent from the 1.9 percent increase originally proposed by the preliminary levy in September. The mayor withdrew the motion later in the discussion and instead called for tabling the required levy certification and the adoption of the 2017 budget to the next meeting on Dec. 19.

Following discussion during the required Truth in Taxation hearing, Mayor Williamson made a motion to approve a final levy collectible in 2017 with a .9 percent increase over the previous year’s levy. The council had earlier approved a preliminary levy in the amount of $1,027,143, which represents a 1.9 percent increase over the previous year. Several budget discussions had been held, as recently as a Nov. 28 work session when the mayor asked councilmembers to “thoroughly review the budget” and contact staff with any questions before the Dec. 5 public hearing.

Williamson explained that the city averages expenditures of about $80,000 per month in the general fund. City policy calls for transferring anything in excess of 60 percent of the general fund balance at the end of the year to the capital fund. After receipt of second-half property taxes from the county, the city will likely see a $200,000 surplus in the general fund, he said. Decertifying the tax increment financing district from the Lakeview Lofts project will also result in a payment of approximately $150,000 to the city, he added.

“It would have been nice to see a summary sheet,” said Councilmember Gary Hughes. Williamson explained that he just put the numbers together over the past couple of days.
“We have significant balances in all of our funds,” said Williamson. “I have to wonder why we’re raising taxes at all – it makes no sense. We’re actually in great shape.”

Councilmember Pamela Horton said she had some questions about the proposal. Councilmember Megan Pavot said it looked like the city was “under budget” which would result in a transfer to the capital improvement fund.

In order to essentially leave the 2017 preliminary budget intact, Williamson also suggested balancing proposed capital fund transfers to offset the decrease in the levy. The main components of the 2017 proposed general fund budget include increases in the fire and police service contracts, an increase in the general fund bond payment amount, and slight increases in the city’s LMCD contribution and the county assessment contract. The city will also see a decrease in monthly employee health insurance costs.

Williamson outlined reserve balances in excess of four million dollars, which mayor-elect Jerry Rockvam questioned from the audience. “If we didn’t get a dime from the residents, we’d have enough money to last an entire year,” Williamson responded.

With questions from the council, Williamson withdrew his motion for a reduced levy and instead made a motion to table the levy certification and adoption of the 2017 budget, which is supported by the tax levy, to the council’s Dec. 19 meeting. He said he would put together a summary and rationale of his proposal prior to that meeting for council consideration. Reserve balances, as well as the city’s bond debt (requested by councilmember-elect Catherine Palen) will also be provided.

The council will have to act on the final certified levy at the Dec. 19 meeting, as all cities are required to submit that information by Dec. 28.