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City Council considering tax decrease

Over at City Hall these days they are talking about a tax decrease. Hard as it might be for taxpayers to believe, it is true.

For five years, the City Council has increased taxes. This year, council members are taking a hard-line approach to bring the city property tax rate down.

In a preliminary proposal approved Thursday by council members, city property taxes on a $75,000 house would decrease by $9.25.

That is heartening to Barb Gugliotti, who frequently has criticized city government. Gugliotti, president of Jungle Terrace Civic Association, took the news with cautious optimism.

"A decrease sounds real good, in my opinion," Gugliotti said. "But let's see how it actually works out."

Mayor David Fischer, who has led the charge to reduce the tax rate, acknowledged that the proposed decrease would be largely symbolic. But he said it would send a positive message to taxpayers at a time when other governments are raising their tax rates.

"We're going to be one of those rare cities that is going to maintain its essential services and reduce taxes at the same time," Fischer said. "It's very important, I think."

Under the plan approved by council members, the city property tax rate would decrease from 8.8 mills to 8.61 mills. A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 in assessed, taxable value.

The budget approach also takes into account the recently announced cuts in city management. And it takes a less-conservative approach to estimating revenue, something that council member Paul Yingst has been advocating.

The possible tax reduction has not come without some scrapping among City Council members.

On Thursday they debated whether to keep City Hall in the Mall, a city services kiosk in Tyrone Square Mall. Council member Leslie Curran said that the cost of operating the kiosk likely could be reduced and that council members ought to consider keeping it in the budget.

Last month, council members made a preliminary decision to cut the $59,000 expense from the budget.

Another item council members haggled over was the city's budget for gifts for visiting dignitaries. Council member Robert Stewart told council members the city ought to spend more than the $1,500 budgeted for gifts for out-of-town guests.

Stewart wants to present special visitors with framed prints from local artists of note as well as other gifts. He had requested $6,000 for purchase of those items.

Fischer argued that the city shouldn't spend more than $1,500 on gifts.

City Manager Robert Obering told council members that based on their direction, he would print preliminary budgets and distribute them at the end of this month.

Two more public hearings on the budget will be held before it is voted on. No dates have been set.