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City Council to host public hearing for budget

September 2, 2018 GMT

The headliner items haven’t changed much since last month in the proposed 2018-19 budget that will come before the North Platte City Council for a public hearing Tuesday and a final vote Thursday.

“There’s not a lot of glitz or glamour to it, but it’s a budget that will get us through another year,” City Administrator Jim Hawks said of his final $150.3 million spending plan for all funds for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

Council members will hear comments on the budget from city residents during their first regular September meeting, which will start at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. They’ll reconvene at 6 p.m. Thursday for a special meeting intended to give final approval to the budget and set the city’s property tax and wastewater rates for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

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Both meetings will be in the council chambers at City Hall, 211 W. Third St.

The city’s final spending plan grew by $120,513 from the draft budget reviewed at the council’s Aug. 14 work session, enough to raise the percentage increase over the 2017-18 budget from 3.5 percent to 3.59 percent.

Nearly $100,000 of that amount, Hawks said, comes from updated figures for the water fund within Municipal Light & Water, which is self-supporting and receives no money from property taxes.

The rest, he said, reflects an adjustment to the city’s contingency fund to hold the tax rate for city government steady after Lincoln County certified a 2.76 percent increase in North Platte’s 2018-19 taxable valuation.

“It was actually up just a hair” from the county’s valuation estimate before city budget work started, he said.

Under Nebraska’s lids on local property tax rates, the city’s tax request must be combined with that of the North Platte Airport Authority. The non-bond portion of the airport authority’s tax request counts against the city’s lid. Taxes to repay bonds are exempt for both.

If the council approves the city budget as presented Tuesday, the combined city-airport tax request will be just under $8.04 million, a 3.1 percent increase over the current fiscal year.

The tax rate for city government alone would remain at 44.27 cents per $100 of taxable value, Hawks said. But the combined city-airport rate would be 50.46 cents per $100, up 3.2 percent from 2017-18.

Since last month’s work session, Hawks said, the city has finalized a 2 percent pay raise for city employees after reaching contract agreements with its unions. About $344,000 for that pay raise had been reserved in the budget’s line item for administration and finance. It now has been reallocated to the proposed budgets for city departments, he said.

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Other significant proposals in next year’s budget remained unchanged from last month’s budget draft, he said. They include:

» A 15.8 percent drop in Iron Eagle Golf Course’s budget, reflecting last December’s retirement of the course’s original construction bonds and the city’s pending Oct. 1 takeover of direct management from Landscapes Golf Group LLC.

Taxpayer support of Iron Eagle would continue next year, but the course’s infusion of property tax funds would fall from $250,000 to $25,000. It also would receive $116,279 from keno lottery proceeds.

» A slight increase in projected lodging tax funds for the Golden Spike Tower & Visitor Center, from $450,000 to $475,000.

» A 2 percent boost in ML&W sewer rates, but no change in the city-owned utility’s electric and water rates.

» Down payments for a new Fire Department pumper truck and new field and police-car radios for the Police Department.

» Two new 12-passenger buses with wheelchair lifts for the city’s public transit system, 90 percent of which would be paid for with federal funds. A resolution to purchase the buses will be considered during Tuesday night’s regular council agenda.

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