Alta city officials eye possible tax increase for infrastructure needs

Friday, January 10, 2020

Altans could face a tax increase as the city looks for ways to afford upcoming infrastructure needs.

The tax levy rate is currently $10.59 per $1,000 of property valuation. The most it could be increased to is $11.46, which would raise about an additional $56,000 per year. With a mild increase in overall property valuations, the city could then expect a budget increase of about $66,000 from the current year, according to City Clerk Megan Peterson.

It would take a supermajority of the council to approve the increase - yes votes from four of the five members. A public hearing will be held February 3 at 6 p.m. at City Hall on setting a maximum spending levy.

The state-stipulated budgeting process will change this year. The council will set a tax rate first, then decide how the revenue would be divvied up in the budget, rather than budgeting first to determine the levy.

The city has few options for increasing revenue. It has already been at the maximum basic levy of $8.10 per thousand, and two years ago added the allowable levy for employee benefits. The only other options the city qualifies for without going to a public vote are levies for operating a community center and a property and liability levy - to reach the $11.46 maximum.

“Nobody likes raising taxes,” Mayor Kevin Walsh said, but noted that Alta even with the increase would be one of the lower tax askings in the region compared to similar-size communities. He suggested it would be an “injustice” not to collect the money to begin planning for upcoming infrastructure needs and major expenses like a future fire truck purchase.

The council has always had projects it wants to address, but hasn’t had the funding, City Clerk Peterson said. “I don’t want anyone to get scared by that, but this is the only way to get more money for infrastructure projects” without borrowing money.

Of the aging infastructure, council member Pam Henderson said, “Everyone knows we need to get going with this.”

In other council action this week:

• Council member Wes Bunjes was appointed mayor pro-tem, to fill in for the mayor if the need should arise.

• Megan Peterson was re-appointed as city clerk, and Gary Armstrong as city attorney.

• Bubba Reetz was re-elected by the volunteer fire department as chief.

• The library report expressed a lot of public interest in the upcoming “Frozen” Party January 18, and noted that the facility has been asked by ISU Extension about possibly hosting nutrition classes for families. If there is enough interest, a class could be offered in Spanish.