Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Dec. 13, 1999

HL citizens seek budget cuts

By Andrea Vargo

Citizens expressed outrage over the proposed 19.4 percent increase for Howard Lake's portion of property taxes at the the city of Howard Lake's Truth in Taxation hearing Wednesday.

They demanded the city council find more ways to cut the budget to reduce the increase to a reasonable level.

Eighteen residents showed up for the hearing. This is a relatively high number for recent years.

City Administrator Doug Borglund explained the process for determining the taxes for an individual.

He gave an example for a house valued at $120,000 market value.

The formula to figure out the parcel's tax capacity puts that home at $1,486 tax capacity.

The city gets 62.454 percent or $928.07 of that amount; the county gets 32.075 percent or $476.63; the school district gets 43.879 percent or $652.04.

This totals 138.408 percent or $2056.74.

Next, a school market value tax of $124.64 is added to bring the total to $2,181.08 for this home, said Borglund.

Then the homeowner is given an education homestead credit of $390, which brings the final estimated taxes for this homeowner to $1,791.40.

This education credit is not the same for everyone, and $390 is as large as it gets, said Borglund.

The explanation didn't make a lot of difference to the mood of the crowd. It demanded the council find ways to eliminate what they feel is an excessive rise in their taxes this year.

One line item questioned was the voting machine for $8,000. City Clerk Gene Gilbert said it is difficult to get anyone to count the ballots, and that means the city staff has to stay up very late to do that.

"Last year, we were the last city to report (ballot count)," said Gilbert.

Another item questioned was the increase in the city administrator's salary.

Mayor Gerry Smith said the job has additional responsibilities now. The administrator will add planning and development to his duties, said Smith.

It was suggested by one resident that the $10,000 designated for the development of a comprehensive plan should be taken out of this year's budget.

Borglund said that money will not be spent this year on a consultant, but will be put away for the future.

A comprehensive plan will probably cost about $35,000, he said.

The resident said that as long as there was such a rise in this year's budget figures, this money could wait until 2001 to be included.

Although, the budget includes money for capital expenditures in most departments, Borglund said he anticipates no large purchases this coming year.

For instance, there is $20,000 in the streets budget for capital and equipment purchases, but the feeling is the money will not be needed, according to Borglund.

But that money can be used to pay for the proposed capital lease program the city may use to buy needed equipment in the future.

This program will provide a more level approach to spending money on large purchases in the future, said Borglund.

The city won't have the financial ups and downs that happen if it needs to suddenly need a bond to purchase a payloader, because the old one doesn't work anymore, Borglund said.

Smith told the assembly that the council would make no promises, but that it would look at the budget again before the final decision at its meeting Tuesday, Dec. 21.

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