Ottawa city commissioners reduced the proposed 2018 budget by $79,882 to reach a unanimous 5-0 vote last week. The 2018 mill levy is estimated at 49.900 mills, a 1.169 increase from last year.
Scott Bird, city finance director, presented the budget at the annual budget hearing at City Hall, 101 S. Cedar St., Ottawa. Most of the approximately $80,000 cut will be trimmed from general fund reserves, Bird said. At first, he proposed a budget of around $52 million. Last year, it was $54 million. He suggested the mill levy be raised to 50.886 mills.
The estimated 2017 mill levy was adopted at 48.802 mills, but was reduced to 48.713 after all the appraisals were finalized toward the end of the year at the county level, Bird said in an interview Monday. Generally, he added, the mill levy goes down from the estimated amount.
During the Aug. 2 hearing, Mayor Sara Caylor asked Bird if the budget contained primarily needs, and not wants. He said he had asked the directors involved in the general fund to cut their budgets by 5 percent, or a total of $400,000.
“I think this budget, probably for the first time in the last three or four years, they’re trying very diligently to cover their needs,” he responded. “We trimmed a lot of the wants out, at least in the general fund.”
Bird added he approaches the city budget differently than others might.
“...I’m always looking beyond next year,” he said. “In fact, we’re looking about five years out. My take on it is that I want to see that budget remain strong, and right now I’m seeing a little bit of weakness, and that’s why I’m recommending...an increase in the fund for next year.”
City commissioner Blake Jorgensen, however, said the city commission should keep the mill levy under 50 mills.
“... There’s always pressure to keep the increases reasonable,” Jorgensen said. “That being said, the mill levy last year was made steady by the last year ... decreased from the year before. We’re looking at a mill levy of about 50.866. Personally, I have a hard time exceeding 50 mills. It seems like there’s a ceiling there, and it seems like maybe a glass ceiling or something like that, but I’d like to stay under the 50 mills.”
Jorgensen said if projections were increased by 1 percent on sales tax for the year, that would have an impact on the overall budget for the year. He suggested to reduce the ad valorem tax by $79,882, or .966 mill, thus resulting in 49.900 mills.
“I think it’s important to express that it’s the desire of the city, and certainly my desire, to meet the community’s needs ... It’s not approached lightly, let me put it that way, when we talk about raising taxes,” Bird said.
The city commission will have a study session 4 p.m. Aug. 14 at City Hall. Its next regular meeting will be 9:30 a.m. Aug. 16 also at City Hall.