Cambridge approves 0 percent levy increase

By Rachel Kytonen

The Cambridge City Council approved a 0 percent tax levy increase for 2012 during the council meeting Monday, Dec. 5.

During the budget hearing, Finance Director Caroline Moe explained the payable 2012 tax levy is set at $4,680,361.

Moe mentioned the notices property owners recently received in the mail were based on proposed 2 percent tax levy increase that was approved by the council in September.

The 2012 general levy is made up of general operations, $3,911.047; Opportunity Blvd. Extension, $86,603; and debt service levies that include $435,000 for city hall; $20,711 for 2007 street improvements; $80,000 Industrial Park; $32,000 Parkwood; and $115,000 for 2009 street improvements.

The 2012 budget is balanced with total revenues and operating expenditures set at $5,245,019.

“We want Cambridge to be a nice community to live in and be well-maintained,” Moe said. “We understand our taxes, utility rates and special assessments are not where we want to be, but we have a lot of financial pressure,” Moe said. “We have a 24-hour a day police force, fire department, streets, and 15 parks within the city we have to maintain.”

Moe explained the 2012 budget plans for no salary increases for staff—for both union and non-union employees. A small increase in the health reimbursement account for each full-time employee is planned.

Moe mentioned 2012 general government fund expenditures declined $100,000 since 2011 by not replacing the vacant community development director position, and a vacant full-time finance office position was filled with a part-time finance clerk position without any benefits.

Other parts of the budget Moe noted were the city’s overall tax capacity (tax base) has decreased from about $6.8 million to $5.9 million, a decline of 12 percent. Residential tax capacity has decreased from $3.7 million to $3.3 million, a decline of 18 percent. Commercial and industrial tax capacity is virtually unchanged from the prior year.

A considerable portion of the budget presentation was also spent explaining the impacts of the decision by the 2011 State Legislature to eliminate the Market Value Homestead Credit (MVHC) in 2012, and create a new program called the Homestead Market Value Exclusion (HMVE).

Moe explained the impacts of the transition to HMVE are homeowners may expect to pay less in property taxes however:

• The exclusion reduces the city’s overall tax base so the tax rate rises.

• Even if a city levies the same amount of tax dollars as last year, tax rates will rise because of the changes.

Moe said the transition to HMVE means property taxes for many business and apartment owners will likely increase for 2012, and property taxes for many homeowners will also be likely to increase in 2012.

During the budget hearing, 2012 property tax statements for businesses and residential properties were presented.

Walmart, the city’s largest taxpayer, with a 2012 taxable market value of $10,448,000, is expected to pay $483,240 in 2012 taxes, a 16.4 percent increase. But Moe noted Walmart may be contesting its taxable market value which is determined by the county assessor.

Target, with a taxable market value of $6,826,000, is expected to pay $315,116 in 2012 taxes, a 13.4 percent increase. Menards, with a taxable market value of $6,452,800, is expected to pay $297,792 in 2012 taxes, a 13.6 percent increase. Lowe’s, with a taxable market value of $4,787,900, is expected to pay $220,510 in 2012 taxes, a 13.7 percent increase.

A residential home on South Vine Street in Cambridge, with a taxable market value of $190,500, (a $21,400 reduction) is expected to pay $3,454 in 2012 taxes, an increase of 10.5 percent.

A residential home on Fern St. NW, with a taxable market value of $103,400 (a $27,600 reduction) is expected to pay $1,878 in 2012 taxes, an increase of 4.9 percent.

A residential home on Bridgewater Blvd. S., with a taxable market value of $44,600 (a $41,400 reduction) is expected to pay $814 in 2012 taxes, a decrease of 22.3 percent.

In other action:

The Council approved a conditional offer of employment for paid, on-call firefighters to Nick Shafer, Don Mueller, Chris Barnes, Melissa Rennaker and Ryan Dale. The offer is contingent upon passing a background check and pre-employment physical.

• The Council approved the 2012 Fire Department Officers: Chief: Sean Okerlund; Assistant Chief: Tom Tomczik; Equipment Captains: Todd Schwab and Doug Vellenga; Training Captains: Lucas Milz and Nick Shatek; Public Information Officer: Corey Bustrom; Safety Officer: Jim Lentz; and Secretary: Branden Sward. The appointments are the same as they were in 2011.

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