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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday — March 26, 2004


Bellevue mails levy increase newsletter

Tax increase would cover
demand for services

Express Staff Writer

Bellevue voters will be asked to decide Tuesday, May 25. whether or not to permit the city to increase its annual budget levy from .001342 to .003.

The general election also includes selection of city council members.

It is estimated that under current assessed valuation of property in the city, the proposed levy increase will raise an additional $276,667 in property taxes for the city of Bellevue.

Tammy Schofield, Bellevue City Councilwoman

To better help the public make an informed choice, city council members and city staff have put together a newsletter that explains how the proposed increase to the annual budget levy will improve the financial health of the city.

In light of the city’s recent growth, the goal of the levy increase is to help the city maintain essential services like fire, police and street maintenance, said Bellevue City Councilwoman Tammy Schofield. She volunteered over 100 hours to create the information packet that was mailed to Bellevue citizens this week.

"Historically Bellevue has had one of the lowest property tax rates in the state. The city has worked within its means, but it has not been preparing for the future," she said.

Since 1998 the population of Bellevue has increased 30 percent, and building permits issued have increased nearly 300 percent in the same period.

"The (levy increase) will help bring the city budget to a level to meet needs," Schofield said. "We are trying to establish a healthy viable position for the city financially."

The levy is imposed on assessed property values and provides property tax revenue necessary to finance portions of the city’s annual budget. At the current levy rate, a home with a taxable value of $100,000 would bring the city $133 per year in property taxes. Taxes were 31 percent of city revenues for fiscal year 2003.

"There is no another option for the city to maintain finances," Schofield said

Every year the city budget is set at a certain amount and Idaho Code limits increases to 3 percent per year. The State of Idaho imposed the cap on budget increases in fiscal year 1992-1993 just as Bellevue began to see considerable growth. The city had also cut its budget in half prior to the cap, Schofield said.

City council members considered an increase as high as $389,000. However, after trimming line items in the budget the $276,667 increase was determined as the most appropriate number.

"Bellevue has always been a conservative city," Schofield said. "It has been fun putting this together, but it has been stressful. It is not like preparing for a (school) final. It is dealing with people’s lives. You have to make sure the information is correct. Every city worker has helped to gather the information about the levy increase."

Councilmen Jon Anderson and Eric Allen also worked with Schofield to organize the information citizens will have at their disposal when they make their decision at the polls.

The brochure that should begin arriving in mailboxes today describes how new revenues will be used to help provide adequate funding to maintain the city’s essential public services. The funds if approved by voters will also be used for maintenance and replacement of aging equipment, maintenance and upgrades of parks, increases in insurance premiums, and improvements to the city planning and administration department. The city is also looking to improve basic services offered at the Bellevue Public Library.

The average homeowner in Bellevue pays between $152 and $199 a year in property taxes. The city is seeking an additional $15 to $18 per month. If voters approve an override, the budget would start at a new level, giving the city a chance to catch up with the increasing demand for services.

The city’s 2004 budget is $1 million. If approved, the tax increase would go into effect in January 2005.


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