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Wells trimming 42 percent tax levy increase

By Staff | Oct 25, 2015

“Forty-two percent just doesn’t sit well in my stomach, though I’m sure that kind of number would make anyone queasy,” said John Herman during the Wells City Council’s special meeting to narrow down the tax levy increase.

The council set a proposed tax levy increase of 42.1 percent at the beginning of October and have worked diligently to decrease that percentage.

Just a few weeks ago, the council decided it best to set a special meeting to go through formulas and scenarios which would best suit the needs of both the town and the taxpayers.

City administrator Robin Leslie drew up several different financial scenarios for the council to look at during the meeting.

These scenarios showed council members what it would be like if the general revenue, library, debt service and capital improvement percentages varied, resulting in different levy increases.

Ultimately, the council decided on a scenario that included the current required debt levy increase of $930,000 plus a capital improvement levy increase of $50,000 to put in Wells’ Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) savings account in case costs are needed for building repairs, street projects or equipment replacement. The percentage of the tax levy increase with this scenario sits at 17.04 percent.

“I would not recommended going any lower than this,” said Leslie.

Wells, in the past, had tax levy increases as small as two and three percent, which, according to some council members, was worse off for the taxpayers than they think.

“Once you get behind on capital improvements, you get behind on everything and that is where we are at, I think,” said Mayor Ron Gaines.

“Looking back, our issues were prior to this administration and now we are left playing catch up,” said councilman John Herman.

The council looked at different ways of trying to decrease different areas, one of which was looking at the general revenue expenses, and seeing if they could be lowered.

One idea was to increase the movie ticket prices, which had mixed feedback from the council.

“I think the reason our theater does so well is because we have lower ticket prices,” said councilwoman Whitney Harig, to which some agreed.

“Is there a way we can increase concession prices, or maybe add something to the concessions that may bring in more revenue?” asked Mayor Gaines.

Leslie pointed out to the council that there was already progress in the revenues with concessions that included popcorn, candy, and sodas, along with a portion of revenue that came from publicizing advertisements in the movie lobby.

“We have grossed over $12,000 for ads this year when I budgeted about $10,000,” said Leslie.

Another thought with the Flame Theatre located in Wells was to take it out of the general fund and make it an enterprise fund, ultimately making it of business stature.

The Wells theater would generate and keep its revenue up to be able to continue to keep its ticket and concessions prices where they are at, while still being under the watchful eye of both the theater board and the City Council.

If left in the general revenue fund, a three to five percent increase would be seen by the taxpayers in the levy increase.

“It sounds like this would give the theater an opportunity to start standing on its own feet,” said Mayor Gaines.

Leslie agreed it would be the first step of many to see the Flame Theatre begin to operate by itself without as much help from the city. However, the city would still play a vital role in the management of the theater.

Another budget concern that arose was the street department’s need for another worker. The council had to consider the cost of another city employee. Street foreman Mike Pyzick requested a full-time position be filled, but the council said the budget would be difficult to allow that.

“I’d like to see if we can’t get someone with the qualifications we are looking for at part-time hours. I’d really kick myself in the behind if we found out we could’ve got a man just as qualified for part-time rather than full-time,” said Herman.

Ultimately, the council decided to try to not affect the budget by searching for part-time help before going on the search for full-time.

The council also decided to go with the 17.04 percent levy increase for now before looking at it further.

Their next regular council meeting will be held Oct. 26 at 5 p.m. in the Wells Municipal Center.