BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison residents may be getting a bit of good news from the city as a proposed budget for next year shows a 33.4 cent drop in the city’s levy rate.
City Administrator David Varley and city staff have put together a preliminary budget that includes a 15.564 general mil levy. That number compares to the 2017-18 fiscal year budget levy of $15.911. That number is the amount the city collects per $1,000 of assessed valuation of city residential, commercial, and industrial property.
The city is maxed out on its $8.10/$1,000 regular general levy, an amount capped by Iowa law, so they are permitted a .27/1,000 emergency levy. Outside of the $8.10, the city levies for liability, property and any self-insurance costs, local emergency management services, employee benefits such as retirement, and debt service. The city can also levy on agricultural land but at a reduced $3/1,000 assessed valuation rate. Outside of the agricultural levy, those levies total $15.564. The levy is the lowest since FY2014 when it was set at $14.89.
Varley handed the preliminary budget book to the Fort Madison City Council following Tuesday’s regular meeting.
As part of the book, Varley outlined that revenues for the city were projected to be up this year, despite the reduced levy. Property valuations in the city have gone up in some areas, but Varley said the major reason for the increased revenues is that some TIF financing projects have timed out and some of those revenues are coming back into city coffers.
A Tax Increment Financing project, is basically the city rebating increased property tax revenues on improvements back to the private entity making the improvements. The city can also offer up incentives, such as cash payments, infrastructure improvements, or land. The property tax rebates occur over a specified period of time. According to a TIF worksheet included in the budget, $34,900 in incentives paid to Independent Can in the current fiscal year won’t have to be paid in FY 2019.
The city also made a one-time $250,000 payment to Boulders Inn and Suites for their expansion project, however the city does have $50,910 to the company in TIF rebates in the proposed budget. Siemens will still be getting a $110,750 rebate in the budget. A one-time payment to Fareway Grocery for land preparation and legal expenses of $91,930 was also paid in the current budget, but will not be in future budgets.
The General Fund is expected to carry just $5,611 at the end of FY 2019. The Road Use fund is projected to carry $122,378, Sales Tax fund will carry $1, but those funds are disbursed 80% to the general fund and 20% to Capital Improvements when they are received.. The Hotel/Motel Tax fund, which pays for Tourism Director Jean Peiton’s salary, as well as distributing funds to the Fort Madison Area Artists Association, the North Lee County Historical Society, and other individual efforts aimed at bringing visitors into Fort Madison, is projected to carry a $2,198 balance.
The Highway 61 and Hwy 2 improvement Fund will carry $9.75 million at the end of FY 19 but projects along Hwy. 61 are set to begin this year.. The Water fund will will carry a balance of $542,900, Wastewater will carry $2,930, and Solid Waste will carry $55,425.
It should be noted however, that many of these funds have expenses exceeding revenues and they are supplemented with money from the general fund, which is why the general fund balance is at $5,600.
Varley also indicated in the budget that the new platform for the relocated Amtrak Depot, will probably not be built until toward the end of FY 19 because of construction plan snags with Burlington Northern Santa Fe. He’s only including money in the budget for a few months of operations.