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Friday — January 30, 2004


Bellevue council edges in on new levy proposal

Express Staff Writer

Armed with spreadsheets, pie charts, highlighting markers and calculators, the Bellevue City Council held a special meeting Wednesday, Jan. 28, to discuss a proposed levy increase.

The council said a budget override is necessary to support city services as the city continues to grow and the cost of living goes up.

The current levy rate is .0013. 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.

However, at the current levy rate as property values and the number of homes in the city continue to increase, tax revenues from each household will not keep pace with the demand for services, said councilwoman Vivian Ivie.

"Our budget is preset at a certain amount. Increases are limited to 3 percent per year," she said.

The State of Idaho imposed the cap on budget increases in fiscal year 1992-1993 at a time when Bellevue began to see considerable growth.

"It makes it tough to catch up on years the city expanded and (city government) didn’t."

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.

The question still before the council is how much to ask Bellevue citizens to increase taxes. The council reviewed needs for each department at Wednesday’s meeting but was not yet prepared to give exact figures for how much taxes could increase.

Referring to studies done by the Association of Idaho Cities, councilwoman Tammy Schofield said government officials move from one crisis to the next because city budgets are not forward thinking. She said a vote for an increase this year would help Bellevue get out of the crisis mode and better plan for the future.

A vote on the issue could be held in May at a special election if the council decides to ask for it. If approved, the tax increase would go into effect in January 2005.

"We’re not providing services at the level we should," Ivie said. The goal of the council at the meeting was to clarify the compelling reasons for increasing taxes.

The council’s list of priorities a levy increase would fund include helping the city hire and maintain top quality personnel in all departments and improve infrastructure particularly in the areas of fire protection and public safety.

"Before we bring this to the public we should be specific about where we think money should go," said councilman Eric Allen.

The council did authorize the expenditure of funds to publish fliers and advertisements explaining the financial goals of a tax increase.

Bellevue Marshall Randy Tremble said he thought there was considerable support for a levy increase in the city.

"I haven’t heard a single complaint," he said. "There is no gluttony in this city. We work hard and are frugal."



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