Budget hearing Sep. 16

Property tax rates for the City of Fort Calhoun could remain the same this year compared to last.

The Fort Calhoun City Council held a budget workshop Aug. 28 to discuss initial budget and revenue plans for the upcoming year.

"We try not to change it at all," City Treasurer Katie Knight said of property tax rates, adding that more budget and revenue calculations need to be completed before a firm levy estimate can be made.

The city's property tax rate for the previous fiscal year was 56.13 cents per $100 of valuation. The owner of a property valued at $200,000 paid $1,122.

The city could keep its tax rate the same while generating more revenue from taxes because property valuations have gone up. Property valuations are about $85.32 million this year, while last year they were about $79.48 million.

Knight said some budget and revenue calculations still need to be complete before total budget and revenue numbers can be more accurately estimated. The city will hold its budget hearing at the next city council meeting on Sept. 16.

Street, water and sewage

The city council also discussed some of the city's monetary obligations for the next fiscal year, including for street projects, water and sewage.

The city is currently estimating $700,000 for street projects. About $500,000 could be bonded. City Engineer Lucas Billesbach of JEO Consulting said those bonds could be structured to be paid with the city's highway allocation funds.

"It would contain some payments with a void structure on the end that gets refinanced," Billesbach said. "There's a fair amount of your debt that goes away in the 2023-24 timeframe."

The city has prioritized some projects, while others can be completed if funds are still available. Priority projects highlighted in the meeting were around Monroe, 7th and East Clay streets.

The city expects to pay about $75,000 over the next year for water and $100,000 for sewage. Knight said revenue from resident payments for water and sewage is expected to be around $215,000 and $330,000, respectively.

Mayor Mitch Robinson and council member Bob Prieksat questioned whether the city should raise its water rates since the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resource District (NRD) raised its rate for the city 7 percent and expects to raise it another 12 percent in the future.*

"Do we need to raise ours up, or are we still OK?" Robinson asked.

Maintenance Supervisor Corban Helmandollar said the city has been handling increase costs without raising its rate on residents.

"We've been eating the cost because we've been spending less hours in the water and sewage department," he said.

Prieksat said he wasn't sure if the city should deal with less revenue because the NRD is raising its rates. Billesbach said the city has an agreement about rate increase with the NRD that is supposed to follow a specific formula. He said the city should make sure the rate increases follow the formula.

Other budget projections

Park projects, such as a new court in West Market Square or a possible splash pad for the proposed park in the Adams Street Corridor, are also budgeted.

The city has no obligation to begin construction on the splash pad. Construction could take place if a private group of Fort Calhoun residents is able to raise half of the $500,000 estimated to complete the project. The city expects revenue from sales tax and a $50,000 grant from NRD will help pay for the splash pad.

The city also is budgeting for new payments of at least $275 a month to JDW Midwest for building inspections. The city entered into an agreement with JDW earlier this month to handle its building inspections and assist in the zoning and building permit process. The city will collect fees for permits and pay a portion to JDW for services provided.

*Zach Nelson, who heads the NRD's rural water systems, said the NRD has experienced annual rate increases from its water provider, but has not passed those increases to NRD water users.

NRD water rates for Washington County Rural Water System 1 have been, since June, 1 2013, set at a base rate of $17.75 per month with the first 10,000, next 10,000, next 30,000 and over 50,000 gallons set at a cost of $4.95, $3.35, $2.35 and $1.83 per 1,000 gallons.

NRD water rates for Washington County Rural Water System 2 have been, since June, 1 2013, set at a base rate of $25 per month with the first 10,000, next 10,000, next 30,000 and over 50,000 gallons set at a cost of $4.95, $3.35, $2.35 and $2.10 per 1,000 gallons.

Nelson said water rates will be reviewed in early 2020, but no rate increases have been discussed by the NRD yet.

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