Wednesday, May 23, 2007

4 Bellevue OKs tax increase

Express Staff Writer

Bellevue citizens approved an increase to the city's property tax levy in a special election Tuesday, May 22.

Requiring a 60 percent voter approval, the levy narrowly passed with 67 percent approval. There were 185 votes for the increase and 90 votes against it.

Out of all Bellevue registered voters, 28 percent participated in the special election.

This is the third time in four years that such an increase has come before voters. Similar measures failed in 2004 and 2005.

With the success of the levy proposal, homeowners will pay an additional $58.20 annually per $100,000 in property valuation.

Last year, Bellevue property owners paid $78.12 per $100,000 in assessed valuation, one of the lowest tax levy rates in Idaho.

With the tax hike, approximately $200,000 will be added to Bellevue's $2.36 million budget. The money will be used to increase the levels of service in the fire, police and street departments, as well as the library.

In contrast to the previous attempts, this year a citizens advisory committee—organized to determine the level of Bellevue's municipal services—recommended the tax hike in order to hire full-time employees in each of those departments, and to make other improvements.

During his recommendation to the City Council on March 29, Ken Allen, chairman of the committee, provided a detailed analysis of problems in the current levels of service. His hope was that voters would be more willing to accept the tax if they knew exactly where the money from their pockets was headed.

The committee's recommendations as to where the revenue from the tax increase would be directed are:

1. $92,060 for law enforcement:

· $62,200 to recruit and hire one additional police officer.

· $9,160 to increase pay of current Bellevue police officers to match adjacent communities.

· $20,700 to obtain upgraded E911 communication and record management systems.

2. $48,600 for the Fire Department:

· $36,600 to hire a full-time fire marshal.

· $2,000 to increase volunteer fire fighting force pay from $10 an hour to $12 an hour.

· $10,000 to increase annual operations funding.

3. $110,400 for the Street Department:

· $80,400 to hire the equivalent of 1.4 full-time employees.

· $30,000 for the street maintenance program.

4. $32,500 for the City Library:

· $22,500 to provide a full-time librarian.

· $10,000 annually for books, computers, resource materials and operating expenses.

Out of the committee's total recommended $283,560 of funding, approximately $200,000 will come from the increased tax levy. The remaining $83,560 will be provided by annual tax growth appreciation and added franchise fees.

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