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City budget: Public hearing March 5

Published: Friday, March 1, 2013 1:15 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, March 1, 2013 1:24 p.m. CDT
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The tax levy on property will decrease from $13.52 per thousand to $12.95 for property owners in Creston in fiscal year 2014. City Administrator Mike Taylor said the city is working to do more with less. “When it comes down to it, the levy (on property taxes) is coming down,” said Taylor. “But expenses just keep going up and up.”

Creston’s city budget, which is subject to final approval after a public hearing March 5, includes $1.5 million to begin infrastructure work on the Cottonwood subdivision despite slight cuts in overall city revenue.

Revenue for the city of Creston has decreased slightly because, for one thing, the property-tax levy has gone down by 57 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, from $13.52 to $12.95. The estimated property tax revenue for fiscal year 2014 is $2,209,372 compared to $2,280,388 in fiscal year 2013. Total estimated revenue is $14.8 million compared to $15.4 million this year. Mike Taylor, city administrator, also attributes the decrease in revenue to a lack of grants available and the end of existing grant programs.

“We’ve got plans to do a bond issue for Cottonwood,” Taylor said.

As development plans for the Cottonwood subdivision come together, Creston City Council will eventually vote on how to fund the infrastructure and whether or not they plan to seek a bond.

The proposed city budget is $16,330,337, or 5 percent less than the current fiscal year’s budget, which City Administrator Mike Taylor contributes to conservative spending.

The proposed $16.3 million spending plan for the new fiscal year beginning July 1 also includes funds for replacement equipment for Creston Parks and Recreation and water waste treatment plant, parts for Creston Fire Department’s new fire truck, facility improvements to the city’s animal shelter and community pool, road surface repairs, historic structure survey of city hall, new computer equipment for city personnel such as Creston Police Department, an increase in library book funds and an archery program.

Culture and recreation are facing a serious reduction this year in comparison to last, but it is not what you think.

“Part of that is misleading,” said Taylor. “A tornado hit and we had a million dollars worth of damage to the YMCA, which (the building) is owned by the city. And we had expenses in 2013 that won’t be there (in the current budget).”

The same reductions in revenue and and expenditures appear now that the Water Works department, which is part of the city budget, is no longer working on the 12-mile and Summit Lake projects.

“There’s not a whole lot of change in this budget,” said Taylor. “There are no drastic reductions, no cuts to programs or staffing.”

Improvement project

“It’s been quite some time since we have restored city hall,” said Taylor. “There is some wear and tear on the building, especially on the back side.”

Because Creston’s Restored Depot is a historic building, the city seeks to sign a contract to perform a historic structure survey of the building. Taylor said the survey, which will cost approximately $9,000, will help the city prepare specifications and understand what kind of repairs are needed to keep it historic. One engineering firm has already put together a proposal for the depot restoration project to the tune of $90,000. The survey will help determine what needs to be done and what projects are priority.

“We think that because it is a historic building and tourists visit, it would make good use of some tourism money,” said Taylor. “It may not cost the taxpayers anything.”

Proposals are also being made to add upgrades to Creston’s pool.

“We are going to do a few things,” said Taylor. “The biggest expense is a new roof on the pool.”

According to Taylor, additional shade at the pool has been a frequent request. Because of this, the city has budgeted for a 20- foot, semi-permanent umbrella.

“We are also going to roof on some of the shelter houses in the park,” he added.

Improvement projects will also hit the streets of Creston.

The road repair budget has been increased slightly, which is funded by road-use tax and some local option sales tax.

“We did 50 blocks last year of oil and tar on local roads and there’s another 200 blocks that need to be done,” said Taylor.

According to Taylor, some roads with curbs have just been asphalted over, causing the curb to disappear. With no curb, water runs off the edge and damages the foundation of the road.

While not all 200 roads will be prepared this year, Iowa State University will perform a road-surfacing-conditions study to prioritize which of the roads are in most need of improvements.

Culture and recreation

According to Taylor, Gibson Memorial Library used to have a book budget of $20,000, which has been reduced over the years.

“This year we are proposing an increase from $9,000 to $13,500,” said Taylor.

At the Parks and Recreation Department, an archery program on the south end of McKinley Lake is in the works.

“We’ve worked with our insurance people and think we have a place picked out,” said Taylor. “It won’t be very expensive, but I bet we get quite a bit donated.”

Police and fire

Police and fire departments will see a 4 percent increase in their retirement funds this year, which is state mandated.

Additionally, the city is looking to upgrade its computer equipment, which includes the law enforcement center.

“The current one is over seven years old,” said Taylor. “We’ve already extended and really pushed it.”

Approximately $20,000 has been allocated to upgrade equipment at city hall and Union County Law Enforcement Center. Part of that will be spent on a new system for police business, such as real-time reporting and license plate checks right from squad cars.

Public hearing

“The public can ask questions and we are here to explain,” said Taylor.

Taylor said, if there is enough objection, the only thing that can be done is to reduce the budget.

“When it comes down to it, the levy (on property taxes) is coming down,” said Taylor. “But expenses just keep going up and up.”

The city budget public hearing will be held during Creston City Council’s regularly scheduled meeting ….. p.m. Tuesday at the restored Creston Depot. Copies of the budget are available at city hall or Gibson Memorial Library.

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