MARINETTE — The final numbers won’t be crunched until late next week, but the Marinette tax rate will likely see a slight increase next year.
Finance Director Jackie Miller presented the preliminary budget Tuesday to the city’s Finance & Insurance Committee prior to the regular Common Council meeting. She explained why there may be an increase when the final numbers are reported.
“The levy is the same as last year,” Miller said. “Assessed dollars are down almost $10 million dollars. So even though we are levying the same dollar amount, it looks like there was an increase because that assessed value went down, which makes the (tax) rate go up.”
She said reasons for the assessed value going down include dark store businesses, changes in the way the state tabulates personal property tax valuation and minimal growth.
“The new growth in the city was very, very low this year,” she said.
Miller said the tax rate will be known on Nov. 20 when the city receives final information from the state. A public hearing will be held before the Dec. 1 common council meeting and then the budget will be voted on by alderpersons.
Miller, along with Mayor Steve Genisot and Council president Dorothy Kowalski, worked on this year’s budget.
“Many, many, many hours spent on trying to work things out,” Kowalski said. “I appreciate all the work Jackie put in and the mayor as well.”
Based on preliminary numbers, a home owner with a house valued at $100,000 will see an increase of $60.26 in their taxes. If the school tax stays the same, the mill rate will go from $22.50 per $1,000 of assessed value to $23.12 per $1,000. That’s an increase of .62 per $1,000.
“It looks worse than what it is because the (assessed) values went down so bad,” Miller said.
The Marinette School District’s successful $30 million referendum to “rightsize” its schools will affect the budget by about $30 per $1,000 of assessed value. That number is included in the previously mentioned calculations.
Alderman Rick Polzin said, “So what I’m hearing is that operationally, things aren’t that different (than last year). Special impact items are having an impact on the tax rate. The controllable things have been controlled.”
Alderman Jeff Skorik asked if any department needs were not met by this proposed budget.
Miller said a request by Chief John Mabry for an additional police officer was not approved. “I don’t think there are any shortfalls, other than the PD,” she said.
Kowalski said there was no way to include another police officer, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. “We just couldn’t do it, we looked at cutting overtime, but we just felt we could not do that,” she said.
The amount of capital outlay items requested by department heads totaled $702,913 and a total of $299,916 was approved. The largest items not approved were $150,000 for an airboat for the fire department and $150,000 for the Higley Field playground from the parks department.
The committee discussed the Community REC Center, which is being subsidized in part by city funds.
“They (the REC Center) have had two odd years,” Kowalski said. “There hasn’t been a normal year, but we’re working on that”
The REC Center opening two years ago was delayed for construction reasons and last year it was impacted by COVID-19.
Polzin said in light of COVID-19, maybe a different plan of action could be utilized for the REC Center.
“I don’t know if there’s a way to change strategy, but maybe we should develop a ‘small ball’ strategy,” he explained, using a baseball analogy where a team uses base hits, stolen bases and speed rather than trying to hit a home run. “We should look at smaller, more frequent events. We need two, three events a month in some way, shape or form. We need some creative thoughts to fight through this.”
Miller said COVID-19 was considered during the budget process.
“I think most of the whole budget, whether it was general funds, room tax, whatever, we went forward with the anticipation that COVID was going to pass and we were going to have a normal working year,” she said.
Miller also said she doesn’t seen any reason why the city won’t receive COVID reimbursement grant money, especially in essential worker categories such as police and fire.
The preliminary budget is available for review at City Hall, but Miller said she will make it available on the city’s website for those who don’t want to venture out because of COVID-19.