Early city levy shows 12.67% hike; council hopes to trim

By Seth Schmidt

The truth-in-taxation property tax statements that Lyon County mails Tracy residents this fall will reflect a proposed 12.67% increase in the City of Tracy’s levy.
City council members adopted a preliminary $1,234,776 property tax levy for 2018 Monday night, which is almost 13% more than the final levy adopted for 2017. Council members indicated they would try to pare the levy before the final levy is adopted in December. But council consensus was to leave a cushion in the proposed levy increase, since some expenses for next year are still unknown. The preliminary levy can be decreased, but not increased.
The preliminary levy is greater than the 10.9% levy increase that the council was presented on Sept. 11. At the time, then City Administrator Madonna Peterson said she considered the 10.9% increase too large, and wanted to reduce the size of the increase.
Council members agreed.
But after discussions at a Sept. 19 budget meeting, more spending was added. Those increases included $5,500 to put hanging flower baskets along Hwy. 14, and $14,000, to replace a portion of the $140,000 from a hospital reserve fund, that the council gave to the Tracy Ambulance Service as assistance in buying a new ambulance. (The money was part of a $200,000 fund remaining from the transfer of ownership of the Tracy hospital to Sanford Health. The fund was designated for “health-related” purposes, causing the council to give the money to the ambulance service. Because of the allocation, the city is no longer paying a $14,000 annual service fee to the ambulance service).
Mayor Steve Ferrazzano suggested that the $14,000 be cut from the levy, since the city is not under an obligation to restore the health-related hospital fund.
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The proposed 2018 levy has four parts: general fund, $727,503; Permanent Improvement, $50,000; Infrastructure Replacement Reserve, $53,760; Debt Services, $403,513.
The $53,760 infrastructure levy, designed to pay for storm sewer improvements, is new.
The Permanent Improvement levy is increasing from $10,000 to $50,000 to help fund wastewater bond expenses.
The debt service levy is increasing fro $348,205 to $403,513, mostly because of recent infrastructure projects.
The general fund is decreasing slightly, from $737,755 to $727,503. Council members noted that some general fund expenses for next year are still unknown, including employee health insurance and wages. The current budget figures are based on a projected 3% employee increase for next year, but a contract settlement has not been reached with the city’s AFCME union.