MARSHALL - It wouldn't be finalized for another three months, but a majority of the Marshall City Council thought a proposal to set the city's 2013 property tax levy at a 6.5 percent increase was too much. After a 4-3 split and additional discussion, council members voted to set a lower levy increase at their regular meeting Tuesday night.
The council needed to adopt a preliminary 2013 levy and budget by Sept. 15. The final 2013 levy may be set lower than the preliminary levy, but it can't be increased.
Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig presented council members with a proposal to raise the municipal levy by 6.5 percent over 2012, or about $312,000. While the overall levy would increase, Martig said, the impact on individual taxpayers would be less than 6.5 percent, because of tax base growth in Marshall. The effective tax increase for homeowners and businesses would be closer to 2.9 percent, he said. Taking into account Lyon County and Marshall Public Schools levies, Martig said, individual tax impacts may go down overall.
Council members Mike Boedigheimer and Charlie Sanow said they disagreed with a 6.5 percent increase.
Martig had an alternative proposal, which included a 3.5 percent levy increase. This plan would have the effect of keeping local property tax impacts the same as 2012, he said, but would allow less flexibility in setting a budget. The revenue brought in by the lower levy increase would cover wage increases for city employees but would not cover a projected operating deficit for the city, he said.
Council member John DeCramer asked whether it would still be possible for the city to look at some additional road maintenance and other projects under the 3.5 percent levy increase.
"It's a matter of priorities," Martig said. However, he said, "I probably wouldn't be looking to add things."
DeCramer moved to adopt the 6.5 percent levy increase, but the vote failed 4-3. Council members Boedigheimer, Sanow, Dan Ritter and Jennie Hulsizer voted against the increase.
A motion by Boedigheimer to adopt the 3.5 percent levy increase passed 4-3, with council members Sanow, Larry Doom and DeCramer casting the no votes.
Once a preliminary levy and budget have been adopted, Martig said, the city administrator's office would accept comments from the public. A public hearing on the levy and budget will be in December.
In other business Tuesday, the council approved fees, including wastewater and stormwater utility fees for 2013. Martig said stormwater rates would be unchanged from 2012, while wastewater fees would increase 4.5 percent. The increase in wastewater rates was lower than had been predicted earlier, he said.
Marshall Wastewater Supervisor Bob VanMoer said the city had sent notice of the proposed changes to the top five industrial water users in Marshall but hadn't received any negative feedback.
Council members voted in favor of approving the fees.
Council members voted to table consideration of a subsidy agreement between the Marshall EDA and Ralco Nutrition for the second time at Tuesday's meeting. Martig said there were some legal issues that still needed to be finalized before the agreement could be acted on by the council and recommended the council table the issue until its next meeting. The subsidy agreement was originally on the council's Aug. 28 agenda but had been tabled.