To the Newton Independent:
The more I attend the council meetings, the more I get the feeling the council members are like a flock of sheep that are easily lead. If I heard correctly (Monday) night and last week, the main reason we are raising the levy by $0.15 was because we needed to have benefits costs transferred out of the General Fund Levy and have the total true cost be reflected in the benefit levy.
When you look at the categories for city levies, there are six of them. The General Levy is limited to $8.10. Outside of the $8.10 (includes Tort, Library and Emergency Management), Emergency Levy, Debt Service, Benefits and Capital Improvements.
The proposed budget for 2013-14 is:
General Levy - $8.10
Outside $8.10 - $0.28 (which is $0.0092 lower than last year
Emergency Levy - $0.00
Debt Service - $1.036 (which is $0.054 lower than last year
Benefits - $5.40 (which is $0.30 higher than last year
This gives a total of $15.14, which is $0.15 higher than last year. There is a savings of $0.146 in Outside $8.10 and Debt Service which helps offset the $0.30 increase in Benefits.
The projected year end balance is 25.9 percent when it needs to be only 25 percent. This extra .9 percent is about $65,000 or $0.15 of the levy.
I wonder if these people think that the General Levy category of $8.10 is a fixed amount?
I can see no reason why if they want to have all the Trust and Agency cost moved to Benefits to show the true cost why they just don't do it. It is a simple thing to move the T&A cost from the General Fund to Benefits. This will not raise the total levy rate if you just lower the General Fund levy by the same amount. Tehre is no reason that we could not lower it to $7.95 or even less. This would result in the levy remaining at the $14.99 as it is this year and still have a 25 percent year-end balance.
If you think this is a wacky idea, many cities do not use the full $8.10. Ames is one at only $5.83, but they also only have a total levy of $10.72.
Even if the levy would remain at $14.99 it would still result in a 3.96 percent tax increase for the average home, but that is a little better than with the 5.11 percent increase in the proposed budget.
Maybe we need to think a little out of the box.