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Lee Bilger and Shawna Heaps were guests at a September 14 City Finance Team meeting where they told the team that city taxes are too high.

In his report to the September 28 City Council meeting Team Chairman, Councilman Jim Bockelman, quoted Bilger as stating many real estate sales are lost due to the high taxes and that one prospective buyer from Texas had told her this city‘s taxes were higher than in the city of Austin.

Bockelman said Heaps stated she can’t sell her house because her taxes are too high and that her house and property have been assessed at $70,000 more than its appraised value.

Bilger told the team that there are many services, funded by city taxpayers, which are also used by county residents and that there should be a way for the tax burden to be equalized.

Bockelman said the group reviewed possible solutions. Ideas included a specific taxing district for the Cemetery and a Recreation District.

Establishment of taxing districts has to be citizen driven rather than governmentally based. It was pointed out that non-essential services the city provides like the parks, the swimming pool and the Sacajawea Center amount to a yearly expenditure of around $300,000. And if the services were to be picked up by districts it would cut city property taxes by approximately one third. They said money would be collected for the services through property taxes thereby spreading the cost burden across a larger population.

Finance Director Amy Fealko told the team the Benedict family wants to sell the History Park property as well as properties adjacent to History Park. The present agreement between the Benedicts and the city is; the city pays the property taxes and provides on-site rest rooms but uses water for the site from one of the adjacent properties. The Benedict Estate wants the city to purchase the History Park property and wants to give the city the first right of refusal. After the Finance Team discusses the proposal it will be presented to the full council.

Bockelman said the financial report for August shows that as of August, 92 percent of the fiscal year had elapsed and revenues were either at or above the projected budget. He said expenditures were near normal for most city departments and that any variances were explainable.

After discussing using grant dollars and city funding to facility the current sidewalk project it was decided that the full City Council needs to determine if adjacent property owners should be responsible for some of the new sidewalk costs and if so, the council should consider the possible establishment of an ordinance to that effect.

All Local Option Tax payments are now current. Bockelman said that after discussion about how LOT monies should be spent the team decided the full council should discuss the issues and determine by way of legal definition where funds can be expended.

The next meeting of the Finance Team will be October 12 in the City Hall Conference Room.

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