NYA Council sets preliminary levy

After some discussion, the NYA City Council approved a preliminary budget and levy for 2013 during its meeting on Monday, Sept. 10.

Preliminary numbers show an 8.2 percent increase in taxes for city residents next year — a total increase of about $121,000 in taxes collected. That 2013 number can be lowered before the final budget is approved in December. It cannot, however, be raised now that the preliminary number has been set.

For perspective, the city council approved a preliminary levy increase of 13 percent last year, but actually ended up decreasing the levy by 5.3 percent when the final budget was set a few months later.

Some members of the council seemed uncomfortable with the preliminary increase of 8.2 percent, cautioning that the number was simply a place to work from in the months ahead.

“This is a work in progress,” said Mayor Tina Diedrick, adding that approving a higher preliminary budget gives the council and city staff flexibility in finalizing the budget for 2013. “This is a good starting point. I do not want to see an 8.2 percent increase.”

Councilors Jim Keller and JR Hoernemann agreed.

“I’m good with the preliminary, understanding that more work needs to be done,” said Keller.

Councilor Dick Stolz agreed that no one wants to raise taxes, but pointed out that keeping taxes flat could be a challenge this year, since the preliminary budget, even with an 8.2 percent increase, still does not account for any Capital Improvement items or new roads.

He added that since funds for the Capital Improvement Plan and the Street Maintenance Fund were taken from the Special Capital Projects Fund last year, the city’s ability to continue covering itself with fund reserves would eventually be depleted if revenue is not increased.

“We’re using a lot of money where eventually the well is going to run dry over time,” he said.

Councilor Carol Lagergren asked what the preliminary tax increase would be if Capital Improvement items were included, and was told by City Administrator Tom Simmons that the levy increase would rise to 13 percent in that case.

Lagergren said she did not want to have another 13 percent preliminary increase, and the rest of the council agreed, approving the 8.2 percent increase with the goal of decreasing it by December.

The overall preliminary budget was approved at $2,252,424, an increase of $152,478 over the 2012 budget.