Property Tax Levy Discussion

city-logoRecently I was asked by the Mayor to share my thoughts on two questions. Those questions were:

  1. By what amount should we try to reduce the levy for next year? (i.e. 1%, 3%, etc.)
  2. By what amount should we try to reduce the levy over the next 3 years? (i.e. 1%, 3%, etc.)

Below is what I said in my response. I also included the Vision Statement and the goal statements that came out of the Council/Administration retreat.

I do not have a simple answer to your question. My answer will be dependent on a review of the concrete action plan the Council was told would be forthcoming from the administration. I am not willing to name a percentage I would like to see the levy reduced over the next year and the next three years without understanding the impact of any decrease.

We need to account for the real cost of our police and fire departments for example. Further, to make a significant decrease in the levy will require a willingness to remove a department or service or at least significantly reduce personnel.

Goal 1 (Reduce property tax levy) links to goal 2 (Shrink City Government) and I believe these two goals go together. For example, I would discuss cutting the City’s support for the Golf Course, Rec Center, trash collection or ambulance service to reduce the size of City Government. Those cuts would have a significant impact on the levy.

I am also committed to Goal 3 (Downtown redevelopment) Any strategy to carry out Goals 1 and 2 must include some concrete steps toward downtown redevelopment. I’m convinced that downtown redevelopment will make a significant contribution to carrying out goals 1 and 2.

The Council showed its wisdom naming working better with various stakeholders and continue retail sector development because any movement on the first three goals will assumes movement on goals 4 and 5. We could take concrete action on working better with stakeholders by naming them and setting up specific committees. Perhaps we need a citizens committee to help the Council and Administration prioritize services and departments.

Will a decrease in the levy mean a decline in revenue for the city? What if the valuation drops at the same time the levy is reduced? I’d like to see the numbers run on such a scenario before I commit to a specific levy reduction.

How can the income created by MLW make a greater contribution to the City’s revenue stream? Why do we continue to protect MLW when the city is in need of added revenue? What’s on the table to help us reduce the levy?

From where I sit, I don’t honestly know what would be a practical or meaningful number to set as a goal for reducing the levy. I’ve named what I see as first steps in setting a practical and meaningful goal for reducing the levy.

Vision Statement

To be an economic and cultural center for West central Nebraska providing excellent opportunities for its residents and visitors

Goal Statements: Top 5 Visioning Ideas

  1. Reduce property tax levy
  2. Shrink City Government
  3. Downtown redevelopment
  4. Work better with various stakeholders
  5. Continue retail sector development

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