Proposed 2018 Elkhorn budget calls for slight tax rate increase

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Jonah Beleckis
Tuesday, October 17, 2017

ELKHORNElkhorn's proposed 2018 city budget calls for a 13 percent jump in the tax levy, but residents would pay only a 0.27 percent tax increase.

The overall budget would decrease by about $6.5 million because some city projects—namely the new Northeast Water Treatment Plant and Koopman Lane Utility Facility expansion—no longer need to be included, City Administrator Sam Tapson said Monday.

Both projects are mostly finished, Tapson said.

The new treatment plant is operating concurrently with the old plant on West Centralia Street until the city and state Department of Natural Resources are satisfied with water quality and other standards, he said.

However, in 2018, the city is set to take on “significant” borrowing to improve public infrastructure and buildings, which explains the 13 percent tax levy increase, Tapson said.

The borrowing is for Elkhorn's new Department of Public Works garage, which city officials hope to break ground on in spring, and the East Market Street extension near Elkhorn Area Middle School, Tapson said.

The council Monday awarded the contract for the latter project to Rams Contracting.

The council last year narrowly approved the 2017 budget—after voting it down once—because the tax levy increased by $15,000.

Tapson said he anticipates less anxiety or dispute over next year's proposed levy increase because the council has known about it for months. While operations costs have remained relatively flat, the council was informed that the new projects will add significantly to the levy, he said.

The good news for taxpayers: The levy increase is close to tax neutral, in part, because the city closed a tax incremental financing district this spring, Tapson said. After the closure, the money that flowed into the TIF district was moved into city coffers.

The proposed 2018 tax rate would increase from $7.50 to $7.52 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The preliminary timeline for the budget calls for final approval at the Nov. 20 council meeting, Tapson said.

The city will hold a public hearing on the budget the week before.

Council members did not comment on the budget Monday. Tapson said the council will gather as a Committee of the Whole on Monday, Oct. 23, to discuss the budget in more detail.

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