Council will not increase property taxes in 2009

Published on Thu, Nov 13, 2008 by Tara Nelson

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Council will not increase property taxes in 2009

By Tara Nelson

Blaine residents will not see an increase in their city property tax rates in 2009. Blaine City Council decided Monday.

Council voted 6-1 in their regular meeting against increasing property taxes next year with the exception of increases with new construction, the revenues from which will increase by 1 percent.

The decision came after objections by council members such as Jason Overstreet who said a one percent increase in the city’s property tax revenue – however small – would create an undue burden on Blaine residents.

A one percent increase in revenue would equal roughly $9,400, or about a $3 increase per year per homeowner.

Blaine finance director Meredith Riley said the city will still claim taxes from new construction as well as a 15 cents per $1,000 assessed home value bond to pay for a 2002 voter-approved fire station bond levy.

“We will take new construction and any of the other refunds and state assessments that we’re eligible for,” she said.

The measure was approved 6-1 with council member John Liebert voting no.

Senior sewer rates won’t increase

City council also voted to curb increases in sewer rates for low-income seniors and residents on disability despite planned annual rate increases.

In their regular meeting the council approved an adjusted wastewater fee schedule that would keep rates constant for low-income seniors and residents on disability, who currently pay $48.75 per month for a single-family unit.

The cost would be recovered through an increase in the monthly bills of standard single-family ratepayers – .14 cents – bringing their bill from $73 to $73.14.

Council voted 6-1 with council member Jason Overstreet voting no based on philosophical arguments of debt equity and whether subsidized programs should be offered through the public sector or charities in general.“I would rather see that money come from a charity line or the community rather than the council using the law to do it,” he said. “Once we do that, it stops becoming charity.”

Overstreet added he was concerned about setting an ongoing precedent for future years but also said he would be the first to donate $5 toward the creation of a private-sector charity fund to help the elderly pay their utility bills.

“It gives me great pause because things aren’t getting any cheaper,” he said. “I think taking on those massive amounts of debt as a city is not wise.”

Council member Charlie Hawkins disagreed. “It comes down to whether you want to pay a little more for someone else who needs it,” he said. “And I am.”

Council member Harry Robinson said he agreed with the reduced senior rate but wanted to reserve the right to revisit an increase each year.

“I don’t think we’re setting a precedent,“ Robinson said. “I think we’re recognizing we are in an unusual economic period and this makes sense given the circumstances.”