by ADAM GRUENEWALD
Norwood Young America business owners and residents are expected to pay 13 percent more in the city’s portion of property taxes after the budget was accepted on Monday, Dec. 9.
During their last meeting of the year, council members approved the $1.7 million 2014 budget and corresponding levy.
Most of the change in taxes come from debt service for projects, according to City Administrator Steve Helget.
The levy for the general fund rises from $836,464 to $903,435, an increase of 7.96 percent, while the debt service levy, incorporating projects, increases from $637,798 to $762,945, a increase of 19.6 percent.
“Overall our general fund really isn’t increasing a whole lot,” said Helget. “It’s our debt that is driving it a bit as far as increases in the levy.”
In terms of the breakdown, Helget explained the property tax calculation formula shows that a $150,000 home would pay an estimated $840.57 in property taxes.
The biggest challenges in the budget remain the enterprise funds, specifically water and sewer, which are seeing deficits in both areas as projects are paid off. The total water budget is about $890,000, of which $400,000 is debt obligations. The sewer budget is about $660,000, of which $350,000 is debt.
“Operation-wise we’re doing very well,” said Helget, attributing success to staff. “We’ve done a lot of great projects and now we’re in the stage where we are paying for them… This is a point in time where we’re at right now. We’ve made a lot of improvements in the community and we’re paying for them. Maybe we’re carrying a lot of debt at this particular time, but this is just a moment in time. Five to 10 years from now, we will be looking at a different financial picture.”
On a positive note, Helget said the housing market is making a comeback in terms of sales and valuations, creating a larger tax base, and the new city sales tax exemption is expected to save the city $50,000 in 2014.
Helget added he expects an estimated $140,000 increase in state aid this upcoming year.
“Cities and counties haven’t had an increase in our local government aid since I believe about 2006,” he said, adding cuts or limited budgets have limited street maintenance and other projects. “We were all scaling back on our budgets. That meant putting off a lot of things that we are starting to kind of build back into our budget… There were things we put off because we couldn’t afford to do them before.”
In other news, council members heard an update from Brenda Schmitz and Laurie Hilgers on the Peace Village housing project, now officially named The Haven at Peace Village.
Requesting city assistance with the project through the creation of a 15-year tax increment financing district, they gave an update on the $6.6 million facility, which adds 37 units.
Peace Village is applying for a 40-year loan through U.S. Rural Development to pay for the project.
“We did it rather conservatively,” said Schmitz. “The numbers look really good. We kind of went from the back forward on what can we afford.”
Still in the development process, the 2-story project would be located east of the existing buildings and including a link as well as additional parking. The project will incorporate 20 to 25 employees on staff, Hilgers said.
“It was key that we link the buildings,” said Hilgers. “We can share staff, share kitchens. And create that campus feel and make people feel comfortable.”
Preliminary floor plans call for a nine assisted living units and 10 memory care units as well as three flex care units on the first floor and 15 units on the second floor. Also incorporated into the project are multiple dining, family, activity and administration rooms.
“We thought that it was very important to build a flexible building depending on the market,” said Schmitz. “It’s a basic design, a lot like The Harbor. When you go into the Harbor it feels like home. There are not big open staircases and something elaborate. It’s very home-like and conservative.”
Schmitz said the project will better help the non-profit Peace Village Inc., which is run by a board of directors since it was established 36 years ago, continue to provide services for residents. The Harbor opened in October 2006.
“Our wait list are quite lengthy now,” said Hilgers. “Right now there are people in the community that could benefit from that memory care so we wish the doors would open tomorrow.”
Schmitz said the TIF district is built into the fund projections for the building, and it would ensure they continue.
“I believe that we’re providing needs for the people and it feels good to be part of the project,” she said.
Construction on the project could begin as soon as June 2014 with completion in April 2015.
Council members expressed their support of the project, but did not officially approve the TIF district or rezoning request from commercial to residential.
In other news, council members approved several changes to Ordinance 247 regarding off-street residential parking and junk vehicles, approved amendments to the 2013 budget, finalized Broadband Corp’s purchase of Cologne-ISP, continued a lease agreement with Loffler Companies for the city’s copy machine and approved a 2014 salary chart which incorporates cost of living and restructures some of the salary rates.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]