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Wells sets levy increase at 12.86%

By Staff | Dec 14, 2014

The taxpayers in Wells will see a significant increase in what they will pay for the city portion of their property taxes next year.

The Wells City Council voted last Monday night to increase the final 2015 property tax levy from the 2014 amount of $732,430 up to $826,647 for next year.

That is an increase of $94,217, or a hike of 12.86 percent. However, the preliminary proposed levy increase had earlier been set at 24 percent.

Broken down, the levy includes $517,647 for the General Revenue Fund, up from $440,430 in 2014.

“I have included $30,000 for the Frank Brothers elevator blight removal and $65,552 for the city’s share to match the safe routes to school grant,” city administrator Robin Leslie said. “But I cut the $50,000 earmarked for economic development down to $20,000.”

The tax levy also includes $60,000 for the library fund, down from $66,000 this year, and slashes the amount for capital equipment from $50,000 this year down to just $15,000 for next year.

“We will have to postpone the purchase of a new city truck,” Leslie said. “But, after the audit, maybe we will have enough in reserves to pay for it.”

She also said the purchase of a fire truck would need to be done by bonding for the cost.

The amount of the tax levy set for deft service was increased from $176,000 this current year up to $234,000 for next year.

Leslie explained last year’s number was off by $40,000, and should have been at $216,000.

The city administrator said she has been working on the budget for two months, including weekends.

“I have cut what I could to try and lower the costs,” she said.

The council found one area of cuts they were not happy with and reinstated. That had to do with pay for some part-time employees, including four police officers and some seasonal workers.

“I am uncomfortable cutting anyone’s wage,” mayor Ron Gaines said. “Even if it is just 50 cents per hour.”

Leslie said she was just making it (the budget) work, and would take out the pay cuts.

One area of savings the council agreed with was paying off a bank loan the city had for the purchase of a gravel truck.

By paying off the balance of $62,285 out of reserve funds, the city would save $4,509 in interest that would have been spent over the next four years.

In other business at Monday’s meeting, the Wells City Council:

Approved a city fee schedule that raised some amounts, but lowered or eliminated others.

It covers dozens of fees; everything from building permits to liquor licenses. Also included is the fee to rent the theater or the pool for a group event.

Heard a report from police chief Jim Ratelle that included a problem with snowmobiles in the city parks.

Ratelle said the machines have been tearing up the grass and doing other damage. He said there is an issue with excessive speed and racing.

The council declined to ban the snowmobiles from the parks but asked Ratelle to increase patrol in the area and issue warnings.

Ratelle also reported on the possibility of Wells police officers wearing body camera, as per orders from the Obama administration.

The cost would be between $200 and $500 per camera.

Accepted with regret a resignation from Ron Hartman from the Flame Theatre board. He has been on the board for 14 years.