By David Hotle, The JOURNAL
While the taxable valuation of Washington that the city recently received from the Washington County Auditor?s office showed the value of the city has gone up since last year, city administrator Brent Hinson said it still is the plan to keep the tax rate for this year?s budget flat for the seventh year.
Hinson said the city value is up to $242 million from $229 million last year. At this point he is uncertain how the increase is going to impact the city?s budget, which the Washington City Council will begin working on later this month. The city has taken a policy of holding the tax rate flat and operating with the resources the taxes provide. He also said there are too many variables to make a broad statement on whether property owners? taxes will be increased as a result of the increase in taxable valuation.
?We are still in the development stages of the budget,? he said. ?I am meeting with department heads and getting everything put together.?
Workshops for the council are scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 23, Jan. 30 and Feb. 13 in the Washington Public Library. Traditionally, the first meeting is an introduction to the proposed budget, the second meeting is when the department heads explain their askings, and the third is when the council votes on the budget. The budget is required to be in to the state in mid-March.
Hinson said he does not know the reason for the increase in taxable valuation, except that there had been some revaluations of properties in town. He said the city doesn?t have a role on the assessment side.
The city is facing some ?challenges? this coming year with the goal of keeping the flat tax rate.
?Our health insurance did go up a little bit so we have that to deal with,? Hinson said. ?The IPERS withholding rates are going up July 1, and that will be a little money out of the budget and out of the employees? paychecks.?
Hinson also said it is undetermined if a state policy to possibly removing commercial property tax backfill will impact the budget. He believes the city is positioned to be able to weather many financial crisis.
?The tough part of budgeting is that starting in January, you are trying to budget for up to 18 months away,? Hinson said. ?We like to have the five months of data in the current fiscal year to help budget because otherwise you are almost budgeting for a longer period.?
The budget is due to the state on March 15. Hinson said the projects and items that will be included in the budget are based on previous guidance and direction from the council.