Rochester council approves 6.9 percent levy increase
The Rochester City Council on Monday evening gave its final approval to a $258 million budget with $57 million in tax revenue, a 6.96 percent increase to the property tax levy over this year.
The city's property tax levy increased from $53.5 million this year to $57.2 million in 2016. The 6.96 percent increase is virtually identical to the 6.9 percent levy increase from 2014 to 2015 but lower than the preliminary approval of an 8 percent raise .
The city's budget grew to $258,719,529 in 2016, up from about $223 million this year. Capital improvement projects accounted for $4.47 million in the 2016 budget.
The council was unanimous in approving the budget and levy, including a late amendment proposed by Council Member Michael Wojcik.
Wojcik proposed an amendment to have the city staff include a five-year employee staffing "road map" included in the 2016 and future yearly budgets. That amendment was approved by council and included in the final budget adoption.
Wojcik proposed two other amendments that the council did not approve: Creation of a plan by which the city's infrastructure maintenance costs would be fully funded; and another that would change development fees to fully cover the cost of utility connections.
Those ideas were worth more discussion at a later date, Council Member Ed Hruska said, but he did not support the amendments so late in the budget process.
"We've worked on this for months. … There are some things I'd certainly be interested in looking at, but I don't want to amend the current situation given the timeline," Hruska said.
Council Member Mark Hickey suggested adding the topics to the council's agenda for committee of the whole meetings.
During a public hearing prior to the council's budget approval, one resident spoke out against a high proportion of property taxes in 2016 being leveled on business owners.
"This will be devastating to our economy," said Thomas DeBoer. "Please make every effort to correct this taxation problem."
Council President Randy Staver participated last Friday in a public meeting with local business owners, searching for potential recourse for Rochester's heavy burden on businesses.
"The impact on businesses is not lost on us," Staver said Monday. "Double-digit increases are intolerable year after year."
The budget did provide for significant increases to the city's public safety departments, street maintenance, parking enterprise and capital improvement projects. Twenty-two new staff positions are funded in 2016.
"I think the budget this year represents a pretty good middle ground as far as providing for new public safety, providing for the new services the city needs, as well as trying to keep our impact to the local property tax as minimal as possible," said Council Member Nick Campion.