Brainerd's tax rate will not change in 2006.
Though a preliminary tax rate of 43.46 percent was sent out to Brainerd residents for the city portion of their truth-in-taxation notices, the Brainerd City Council Monday by a 4-2 vote adopted a tax rate of 42.75 percent, the same as what it was in 2005.
"Personally I think we can work with a flat rate," said council member Mark O'Day, who presided over Monday's meeting in Council President Kelly Bevans' absence.
With no increase in the tax rate, the city council will have to adjust the 2006 preliminary budget, including cuts of about $52,000. A few of the areas staffers have identified for cuts include $10,000 for the purchase of voting machines, which instead could be bought through grants; the reduction of 500 hours for the community service officers; $20,000 for a scanner/plotter for the engineering department, which instead could be purchased through the construction fund; and eliminating the Gregory Park stone wall repair, the installation of batting cages and trail development from the 2006 park budget.
Council member Anne Nelson Fisher, who with council member Lucy Nesheim voted against keeping the tax rate the same as it was in 2005, said she was opposed to eliminating the Gregory Park wall repair, the batting cages and trail development.
"We're essentially balancing this budget on the back of the park department," Fisher said. "I don't want to quibble about $1,000 here or $1,000 there. I'd rather see us look at whether or not we can be more generous about other sources of revenue or look at increasing our tax rate. It's a very small amount, so we don't have to lose these important things."
"There's things that we should be proactive about and if we cut the levy we can't be (proactive) in some of those areas," Nesheim said.
Council member Bob Olson said money for eliminated items could be found in other areas. He disagreed with cutting the community service officer hours, stating money could be used from an escrow account set up to pay for other wage increases. He also believed city staffers were conservative in their $275,000 estimation on revenue from building permits.
Olson said cuts could be make through eliminating a city volunteer dinner, a recreation specialist position in the park department and through a portion of the levy received by Brainerd Community Action for the city's Fourth of July fireworks.
Olson, Fisher, Nesheim, council member Mary Koep and Mayor James Wallin said they would like to see the Gregory Park wall repair remain in the budget.
"I support holding the levy rate flat as we originally planned," Koep said. "I think we can do that and still find some wiggle room in this budget as proposed. I think we have plenty of time to make adjustments."
The actual Brainerd budget and levy will not be adopted until the council meeting following the city's truth-in-taxation hearing, which is set for 7 p.m. on Dec. 12 at Brainerd City Hall.
The 2006 Brainerd market value is estimated to be $640,519,200, an increase of $76,668,400 from 2005. The 2006 tax capacity is estimated to be $7,655,443, an increase of $988,903 over 2005. A tax rate of 42.75 percent would result in a tax levy of $3,198,000 for the city.
MATT ERICKSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.
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