City’s budget draft shows potential for healthy tax levy decrease

YORK – Tax levy decreases don’t necessarily happen very often with governmental subdivisions, but this year will likely be that year as the first draft of the city’s 2023-24 budget shows just that.

Mayor Barry Redfern, Administrator Sue Crawford, Clerk Amanda Ring, Treasurer Pellie Thomas and the city council members held a special session to briefly go over the proposed budget draft.

They had earlier met multiple times, with department heads, to go over requests and needs. Then the mayor and administrator constructed the draft. Now that draft is in the council’s hands for consideration.

“We had our unofficial start,” Mayor Redfern said regarding the earlier talks. “Now this is the official start of the budget process, that’s the point of tonight’s special meeting. We looked at what was requested and we took out some things based on earlier input.

“As we have talked, this year we want to find a point of balance,” Mayor Redfern said. “In the last year or so, we had the federal COVID funds to do some things and we did personnel (pay) studies. This year, we want to be conservative with our reserves and still stay aggressive with projects in the future. We are also obviously looking at a new fire station and some quality of life aspects of the city. We are doing some things with LB 357 funds.”

Dr. Crawford said the LB 357 projects were discussed by the separate LB 357 committee, which then made recommendations to the council as to which they would like to see included in the next fiscal year’s budget.

Because of the record-setting local sales tax receipts that have been consistently coming in, Redfern said they slightly raised the projected/budgeted amount for that revenue stream.

“We are proposing lowering the property tax levy to .28, which will put us in the bottom four or five of First Class cities in the state (as having the lowest property tax levy). I think that matters,” Redfern said.

“I think we are probably the only ones who are going to lower our property tax levy,” added Councilmember Jerry Wilkinson.

“It is probably going to be a short list,” Redfern responded.

It was acknowledged that the valuation of the city won’t be received until late August, which is a defining factor in setting the property tax levy.

“Regarding our process, we had everyone come to you and we’ve met with everyone. We cut $2.2 million out of the requests,” Mayor Refern said. “The nice thing is that if nothing with this changes, we will have over $2 million left in the reserves.”

“As the mayor said, this year is one of balance while past years were years of catching up,” Dr. Crawford said.

She also said key priorities are to increase collaboration, to partner, and be in the community, fiscal responsibility, investing wisely, integrity, with safety and standards in mind.

“Those were the key values considered when putting these ideas together,” Dr. Crawford told the council.

Thomas spoke with the council about the budget book presented to them for review, as well as about how some figures were calculated. She said nearly $500,000 in ARPA (federal COVID) funds are left, but it is obligated to finish the ongoing project of replacing all the old lead water pipes in the city’s water system.

“We have a way to go, but I think we are off to a good start,” Mayor Redfern said. “Highlight the things you want to talk about further, ask questions, we will get after it and narrow it down. I just wanted to kick this process off and get started. Creating the budget is the most important thing we do.”

 

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