JEFFERSON — Despite substantial capital equipment needs — the most the city’s administrator has seen in his 12-year tenure — Jefferson taxpayers may see a tax rate decrease of 34 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation if a proposed 2020 budget, tax levy and rate are approved by the city’s common council.

According to Jefferson City Administrator Tim Freitag, speaking to aldermen at Tuesday evening’s regular meeting of the council, the tax levy is projected to be up by 0.8%, but would bring with it a decrease in the tax rate from $8.92 in 2019 to $8.58 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2020.

“There is a real small levy increase proposed and it’s the maximum levy increase that is allowed,” Freitag said.

According to Freitag, the reason for the decrease in the rate is, “pure and simple, that the city has seen an increase in the value of its property ... The real estate market in the city is pretty healthy. We had a big increase in the assessed valuation of property.”

In making his presentation, Freitag explained how he and others in the city staff go about putting the annual budget together. The process begins in the summer, when department managers prepare their budget requests. Freitag reviews these requests and puts the preliminary budget together. The finance committee conducts a budget workshop and recommends the 2020 budget to the common council. The council conducts a public hearing, considers the input and sets the next tax levy. This year, the date for setting the levy will be Nov. 19.

Freitag said the 2019 adopted levy was $4,473,025 and the proposed 2020 levy is projected at $4,506,575, an increase of $33,550 and a difference of 0.8%. This requested levy amount is 100 percent of the permissible levy for the year and gathers the general, library and capital funds.

All-funds spending in 2019 was $13,954,925, while 2020 all-funds spending is projected at $16,630,475. There is a $2,645,700 increase in overall spending proposed.

Total revenues in 2020 are projected at $16,630,475, while they are expected to be $15,462,225 this year. Expenditures in 2020 are projected at $16,630,475, with 2019 projected at $14,960,160.

Freitag discussed some of the projects the city will be conducting in 2020 and these total $1,943,500. They include the Woolcock Street interceptor project for wastewater at $850,000; construction of a parks maintenance building at a cost of $400,000; street resurfacing at various locations at a cost of $532,000, re-plastering of the swimming pool at $170,000; lower level service area renovation at the library at a cost of $50,000; library meeting room AV system installation and new chairs at a cost of $22,500 and a sidewalk repair program costing $30,000. Smaller projects include an upgrade of the VFW playground equipment at a cost of $15,000.

Capital equipment replacement areas that show significant expenditures in 2020 include ambulance replacement at a cost of $250,000; replacement of a spreader and plow truck at a cost of $155,000 and a city-wide communication upgrade of $350,000. The communications upgrade is something many communities in Jefferson County are experiencing as they try to remain compatible with evolving emergency communications at the county level. Total equipment replacement is estimated at $1,169,000. The total estimated expenditures for capital improvement and replacement is scheduled at $3,112,500.

“So, as you can see, we have some fairly significant equipment purchases,” Freitag said. “This is one of the largest capital equipment budgets we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

Freitag said current service levels should be preserved through 2020. He said there will be a termination of the Paramedic Intercept Program and one new full-time parks position will be created and funded July-December.

According to Freitag, base wage increases will be 2.5%. He also discussed step increases and other methods of compensation, including health insurance. Under its health insurance offerings to employees, the city will fund a new Dean Health Care Plan to be paired with a Health Savings Account. The funding for the 2020 deductible will be at the 2019 level.

The 2020 proposed budget includes a $55,000-plus miscellaneous contingency line item, with these funds, as yet, unappropriated.

General fund budget assumptions and highlights include 2019 expenses at $6,017,025 with 2020 expenses projected to be $6,114,950, for an increase of $98,275, or 1.6%.

There are no requested increases in the city water or electric rates. The storm water rate will remain the same. For sanitary sewer, tiered rates applied in 2019 will remain applicable. Addressing the refuse and recycling collection fee, Freitag said a new contract has been put in place by the council for 2020, but no substantial increases are expected.

“No other major increases in fees or charges are proposed,” Freitag said, adding the proposed 2020 budget allows the city to continue its programs and services.

In the area of capital improvement projects and equipment replacement spending, the 2020 proposed budget calls for spending of $3,112,500 for funding for equipment replacement, public facility maintenance, street reconstruction, creation of a new park on the site of the former county highway department shop and the continuation of the Riverwalk.

Funding sources are listed as the capital improvement project/equipment replacement fund at $710,500, note issuance of $1,225,000, sanitary sewer debt of $600,000, sanitary sewer fund of $338,500, storm water utility fund at $88,500, land acquisition fund of $100,000 and the library fund of $50,000.

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