Gering’s tax levy for the 2011-2012 fiscal year will remain the same as last year – 29.8 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation.
Members of the Gering City Council approved the levy on Monday night as part of the city’s new general fund budget of $5,953,708.
The city was able to keep the levy at its current level in part because of a 1.8 percent increase in property valuation over last year. The current valuation is $386,258,801.
“That’s significantly different from the past five years when normally the valuation increases are at least four percent,” said Gering City Treasurer John Mejia. “Either the building of homes has declined or the properties were revalued.”
Council member Larry Gibbs asked Mejia whether the county assessor provided a breakdown of what portion of the valuation change was due to new construction and what portion was simply revalued. He said that if property revaluation was the only increase, the city is showing no growth.
“I’ve asked about it, but the county doesn’t provide that information,” Mejia said. “But I’ll follow up and see if they generate any other reports that might help us.”
Mejia also provided a breakdown of the entire Scotts Bluff County levy and where the funds go. In Gering, the major recipients are the school district (52.79 percent), the county (21.2 percent) and the City of Gering (14.89 percent).
Gibbs pointed out that the county was getting 21 percent of the property taxes while the city was getting about 15 percent. “I know we’re funding a lot of services to the rural parts of the county, and I think that’s justified,” he said. “But when property owners are paying a third more to the county than to the city where they live, I really wonder what they’re getting for their money.”
Under the new budget, utilities were a different matter – seeing an overall increase of about 5.7 percent.
The city’s water rates will remain the same at $1.38 per 1,000 gallons. However, the minimum use rate was lowered from 7,500 gallons to 5,000.
Sanitation services will see a 6.8 percent increase, from $11.70 last year to a current $12.50. Wastewater saw a 15.7 percent increase, from $15 last year to a current $17.35. And electricity, priced at $123.95 per 1,000 kilowatt hours last year, will get $6.15 increase 5 percent to $130.10.
“We feel pretty good with only a 5 percent average increase in the cost of all utilities,” Mejia said. “With the cost of living going up 4 percent, that figure isn’t that bad.”
Gibbs said that as federal and state governments continue spending cuts, local budgets will continue to get tighter. “We’re going to have to be really careful in monitoring organizations that are not directly a part of the city but are receiving city funding. That would include the WING drug task force, Twin Cities Development and others. It’s important that we closely examine what we’re getting for our investment.”