Fayette council seeks replacement of levies 2012.08.01

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Fayette residents will face a difficult choice in November when they will be asked to increase the taxes they pay.

Passage of the request, however, will lead to something most residents will appreciate: new pavement on village streets.

As village council members try to deal with a shortage of cash, one means of bolstering village finances is to consider voting for a replacement of the existing 2.9-mill levy rather than a renewal.

Ever since the levy was first established in 1968, voters have been asked only to renew the levy every five years. This means that property valuations are still tied to those from more than 40 years ago. By “replacing” the levy, valuations would be brought up to current levels and that results in higher taxes paid.

If approved by voters in November, the new values would not take effect until 2014 since the existing levy continues through 2013.

Village solicitor Tom Thompson told council members at the July 25 meeting that taxpayers need to realize that they’re already paying most of what the new rate would become. He characterized the increase as relatively small.

Examples of how taxes would increase will be provided to residents before the election. Voters will also be asked to replace the existing 2.0-mill park levy.

The idea for seeking the replacement came from concerns about obtaining a $400,000 street resurfacing grant. All streets torn up through the sewer separation project will be repaired and resurfaced through the Long Term Control Plan sewer project. However, that leaves several streets remaining in their present condition.

Former village administrator Amy Metz applied for a $400,000 grant to resurface the remaining streets. The village was awarded the money, but half the cost must be paid through a zero-interest loan to be repaid over 10 years.

The Village doesn’t have the needed $20,400 for an annual loan payment, but as village fiscal officer Lisa Zuver pointed out at the July 11 committee meeting, it’s an offer that’s too good to let slip by. That led to the idea of a replacement levy.

Village administrator Steve Blue said that the poor condition of village streets is generally the top concern expressed by residents. Combine that with a one-time opportunity to have resurfacing done at half price, he said, and it leads council to ask for help from residents at the polls in November.

“Council has been very hesitant to do anything to increase taxes and has over the last several years pared its budget while revenues from the state have decreased,” Blue wrote in a statement before the meeting. “We expect another decrease in state funding to municipalities to be announced in August so if we are to have streets that are in good condition it is imperative that this tax levy is passed.”

Council members took the first step at their meeting last week by passing a resolution to ask the county auditor’s office to determine the amount of money that would be raised by the replacement levy. A preliminary estimate came in at $21,000, a figure that would almost exactly cover the loan cost.

Council voted 5-0 to approve the resolution, with councilor Mat Johnson absent.

The final step was expected today in a special council meeting to look at the auditor’s report and pass a resolution to place the request on the November ballot.

Councilor Julia Ruger suggested scheduling a public meeting to explain the road project and the replacement request.

When village council members considered seeking a replacement levy for 2.9-mill tax in December 2007, the county auditor estimated that the owner of a $75,000 house would pay about $1.20 a week extra.

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