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21-cent tax increase approved on final reading

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During a second meeting chock-full of often intense deliberation, the Germantown city budget for the 2018 fiscal year was approved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

On Monday night, board members voted 3-2 in favor of the budget, which includes a 21-cent property tax rate increase.

Alderman Mary Anne Gibson requested the rate, which is two cents less than the originally proposed rate of $1.99 per $100 of assessed value.

Aldermen John Barzizza and Dean Massey voted against the budget and the tax rate.

Barzizza said he would “vote on every aspect of the budget but administration costs.”

He noted that administrative costs are up 32 percent in the 2018 budget “because of the increases in various line item details that were exorbitant.”

“I’m concerned with the rapidly increasing cost of administration,” he said.

During a June 12 meeting, Barzizza noted that the city is up in group insurance, per diem expenses, retirement expenses, employee education and fitness costs and said, “I think we have a spending problem.”

Alderman Forrest Owens noted that he had previously discussed the increase with City Administrator Patrick Lawton.

He said the primary reasons for the increase was due to factors like the rise of IT needs and civic support.

“I’m OK with that,” he said.

Alderman Rocky Janda approved the budget and added that he thought the city should have stayed with the initially proposed 23-cent increase.

“I’m not running into people that are upset about the increase,” he said, adding that the tax increase amounted to a $16 monthly hike on a house valued at $350,000.

“It’s not that much,” he said.

Regarding administrative costs, Janda added that the city’s Financial Advisory Committee, comprised of Germantown citizens, had “no problems” with the increase.

Massey asked that the board maintain the city’s current rate before requesting that the board defer action until July 10.

Both motions failed to gain a majority vote.

“None of your (city) services will be impacted by a tax increase,” Massey said.

Germantown’s budget initially included a property tax rate of $1.99 per $100 of assessed value, or 6 cents more than the current rate and 23 cents higher than the “tax neutral” rate calculated during reappraisal.

City officials said the rate increase is necessary to pay for the $33.5-million bond that will be issued for a new K-5 elementary school, improvements to Forest Hill-Irene Road to accommodate the school, and the eventual discontinuation of the state’s Hall Tax.