At a second and final public hearing Tuesday night, City Commissioners voted to adopt a proposed budget and millage rate for the 2014 fiscal year by a 3-2 vote.
The operating millage rate of 3.1728 mills is an 8.5% increase over last year. Including debt service for bonds from 2007, the total millage rate for the city is 3.5817 mills, 6.8% higher than last year.
One mill is equal to $1 in property tax for every $1,000 in assessed value on a property. For a property valued at $200,000, the operating millage rate increase translates to an extra $49.58 in property taxes. The millage rate increase, in conjunction with the use of about $1.1 million in revenue stabilization funds, covers a deficit of more than $3 million that was present in the $191 million 2014 budget.
After the millage rate and budget were approved by a 3-2 margin, Commissioner Susan Chapman stopped the proceedings to question Mayor Shannon Snyder and Commissioner Paul Caragiulo, the dissenting votes. Chapman asked what cuts the two would make to the budget in lieu of a millage rate increase.
Both Caragiulo and Snyder said there were several cuts that could be made, but declined to offer specifics during the meeting. Caragiulo said he stood by the idea that if property values go up, then the millage rate shouldn’t go up.
“I have not presented it to you, but I have gone through very many items,” Caragiulo said to Chapman. “There’s certainly money that could be saved.”
Not satisfied with the response, Chapman continued to push, asking Snyder for the top three cuts he would make after he called the budget “extravagant.”
“I don’t need to get into that, because that’s not what I was prepared for,” Snyder said. “I think this was a pretty foregone conclusion.”
One person spoke during the public hearing segment of Tuesday’s meeting. Joel Schleicher criticized the declining state of the city’s services and said taxes should not increase until those services improve.
Schleicher also implored commissioners to look at the bigger picture fiscally, rather than surviving on a year-to-year basis.
“I care about the city,” Schleicher said. “The city’s bankrupt, and nobody seems to want to talk about it.”
The preliminary millage rate was set by a 3-2 vote in July and was approved by the same margin at the first public hearing earlier this month, with Caragiulo and Snyder dissenting.