By PETER HUSSMANN
Next month's public hearing on Newton's budget won't be the donnybrook it would have been had the Newton City Council gone along with the initial recommendation to add a 27 cent "emergency levy" to institute projects included in the recently completed Comprehensive Plan.
On Monday, the council agreed to the tweaks made to the budget following last week's budget workshop. City staff, likely at the insistence of council members who saw the target on their backs that the "emergency levy" produced - and maybe even a veto threat from the mayor, wisely found that by using some of the budget reductions the council sought and other in-house funding sources they could eliminate the need for the "emergency levy" and the outcry it would have surely produced.
While I agree that the city needs to show that it has some skin in the game when it comes to enactment of the Comp Plan, putting it solely on the back of the taxpayer would have gone over like a cat leash law. I can imagine the taunts it would have produced:
"Installing those wayfarer signs is an 'emergency?' I'll show you an 'emergency.' Voting out the council is an 'emergency.'"
But more rational minds prevailed.
As it stands, the city levy will increase 1 percent next fiscal year, from $14.99 per $1,000 value to $15.14. For a homeowner with an assessed value of $100,000, that will result in a $38.87 increase in the city's portion of the property tax bill, $799.64 versus $760.77.
While that is a 5.1 percent increase in the amount of city taxes paid, local officials have no control over that. The increase is due to the state's decision to increase its residential rollback rate, the percentage of the value upon which a home is taxed, by the maximum allowed 4 percent rate. Had the rollback not changed, the amount of taxes paid by Newton residents for city services would have risen just the 1 percent or $7.61.
The public hearing on next fiscal year's budget is set for March 4.