By Per Peterson
Tired of treading dicey financial waters, the Tracy City Council appears to be leaning toward a substantial tax levy increase in the near future.
Although no vote was taken at Monday’s budget work session, all council members seemed on board with bumping up the traditional 3% tax levy as a way to offset the City’s rising debt service and eventually be in a better position to afford major Capital Improvement Projects and General Fund requests.
Tracy City Administrator Erik Hansen said keeping the tax levy at 3% next year will result in a deficit, and a 5% increase will allow the City to maintain Capital Improvement Projects at 2021 levels. A levy increase of 7% would allow the City to add capital projects.
“Let’s get it up there so that we can at least survive,” councilmember George Landuyt said. “I don’t think there’s a person in this city that doesn’t understand that the previous council has kicked the can down the road as far as they could. It’s time to take care of that. Let’s get it up there so we have some money to work with.”
Councilmembers agreed that any tax hike beyond 3% would put the council in a position to have to educate the public on what any increase would result in — what kind of bang for its buck the public is getting.
“If we can’t get a pool liner because we don’t have the money, so in 2023 we don’t have a pool — so then who’s going to be mad?” councilmember Dave Tiegs said. “If plowing the streets took a day-and-a-half to do instead of the 10 hours that it does take … “
Councilmember Seth Schmidt cautioned that Tracy residents already are dealing with some of the highest property tax rates in the area.
“When someone is looking to build a new house, we’re in competition with Lake Shetek and Marshall — and that’s one of our goals, too, to improve our housing and get more houses built,” said Schmidt.
Tracy Fire Chief Dale Johnson III said no one wants to see taxes go up, but the City is at a point where it’s become a necessity.
“Every year, you watch the council meetings and they talk about setting the levy, it always sits around 3%, and every year, there’s things not getting done,” said Johnson. “Now we have facts that show us that 3% has put us far behind. We need to explain that to the public. We need to let the public know we’re going to replace the pool liner, otherwise the pool will be closed — we’re fixing the streets, you can see that they’re fixed. People need to see where their money is going.”
See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.