With sales taxes bringing in more money than ever in North Platte, Mayor Marc Kaschke wants to cut the city property taxes at least a smidgeon.
The city council is saying that’s not the right place to start making plans.
Kaschke told the city council this week that he wants to build next year’s budget around a property tax levy cut of at least one mil.
One mil equals about $125,000 of the city’s $20 million budget.
“We have as strong of a cash balance as we have ever had,” he said.
By year’s end, the city will receive $500,000 more than last year in sales tax money, Kaschke said.
But councilwoman Judy Pederson said there is more work to do before the council knows what the "needs" are.
Pederson said that council received drafts of department budgets, but they didn’t list capital improvements – equipment and buildings -- that might be needed in future years.
“There were no capital expenses listed for streets, parks, the library,” she said. "That’s a departure from what we usually get.”
Pederson said she asked for that list on Tuesday and councilmembers received it.
“We are looking at that list,” Kaschke agreed, “to start to see what some of the future needs are. We need to start putting money aside for things that will be needed. For instance, if we need an ambulance, we need to have the money to do that.”
Kaschke said insurance and wages prevent the city from cutting the tax call even more. Health insurance costs are up by 6 percent and worker’s comprehensive insurance costs are up 10 percent.
The draft budget calls for higher wages, something city workers have gone without for two years.
An independent study of city salaries calls for an overall payroll increase of 1.7 percent. Plans are to add 1 percent to that, Kaschke said.
“They’ve gone two years with no raise,” he said. “Really when you look at it, these are the people who make our city work. It’s been generous of them to go without a raise and continue to work hard. We lost 15 employees (out of 300) over the last three years who have not been replaced. Our employees are working more efficiently.”
Pederson said the council typcially doesn't get time to study the budget projections and agree on changes. She said they don't get the figures in time from the mayor and city administrator.
But Kaschke's seen enough to think a tax cut is in order.
“If we are not going to take a look at it in a year like this, the simple truth is it is never going to happen,” he said.
Budget work continues Tuesday, Aug. 14, when the council meets at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
Councilmembers will have a chance to vote to change line items in the budget on Aug. 21, Kaschke said.
The council typically votes the overall budget up or down in September.
All council meetings are public.