Town of McMillan residents are again being asked by the Town Board to consider a tax levy increase this Friday after electors voted to lower it to $500,000 from the proposed $665,815 at the Nov. 13 budget hearing, a 25% reduction which passed 51-39. As a compromise, the tax levy has been decreased to about $635,000 for the electors’ reconsideration, up from $628,584.
During a special Town Board meeting November 15, Chairman Carolyn Opitz stated that she had received numerous calls regarding the tax levy vote that the electors did not fully understand what they were voting on. An email from the attorney advised a second Special Meeting of Electors could be scheduled by the board for a reconsideration of the tax levy.
According to minutes, board members discussed this option along with whether to borrow money in the case of a budget shortfall, and the potential reduction of transportation aids if the levy was decreased significantly. It was also mentioned that the board had spent 3 months on the budget, and that while no resident wants a tax increase, the board has tried to keep the projected costs as low as possible.
Revenue from the tax levy comes from assessing the property value of residents. In 2018 the tax levy was $628,584, which would have meant an increase this year of $37,231, or 5.92%, if the original amount of $665,815 had been approved. The mill rate would have been $3.38/$1,000, up from the 2017 rate of $3.10/$1000.
A summary of the calculation of Town of McMillan’s allowable tax levy was provided in a letter to residents:
2018 Allowable Levy: $628,584
1.12% Net New Construction: $6,700
2019 Personal Property Aid: ($1,812)
New debt – fire equipment: $32,343
2019 Allowable Levy: $665,815
Numbers for the original budget can be found on the Town of McMillan website at this link.
The initially proposed budget had a forecasted surplus of $114,276 which was allocated to Other Financing Uses for future Public Works projects, an amount which influenced the vote of electors to lower the tax levy to $500,000 instead.
However, the town shouldn’t count on this surplus, said Opitz.
“We could have [the surplus], but we know that’s not going to occur because we still have payroll, and then the $30k from the debt would also be paid off from that, so there isn’t an excess,” explained Opitz. “Whatever we have at the end of the year, if there is any, will go toward the roads.”
The board has also kept in mind the future $1 million replacement of the bridge, of which the town will be required to pay around $200,000 in 3-4 years.
The motion to call a second meeting of the electors passed 4-1 at the Nov. 15 meeting. It will be held December 7 at 6 p.m. at the McMillan Fire Department for a reconsideration of the reworked tax levy. A meeting to approve the budget during the regular meeting of the Town Board will be held the following Monday.
If the town votes against reconsideration, the budget would be adjusted to factor in a lowered tax levy of $500,000. “It’s a totally different ball game because we will have to make cuts in our services, some way or another,” said Opitz. A state reimbursement of $42,000 for flood damage would need to be used toward future road work with no funds left over.
Opitz said that these cuts would primarily affect road work and public safety services, such as the fire department, as public safety and transportation are the two main focuses of a town. The Town’s letter to residents adds further examples such as capital improvements, snow plowing, emergency services, and dust control.
She encourages residents to participate in the decisions of local government. Less than 5% of the town’s population attended to vote on Nov. 13, but the ultimate decision will affect everyone.
“We felt that it’s as close as we can get to a referendum,” said Opitz of the Dec. 7 meeting. “We feel that it’s important that the town realizes what [a cut] involves…They need to participate, otherwise you have a very small group, and that handful of people are the ones making the decisions for the rest of the town. People need to be aware that we are a grassroots government, and there’s a responsibility for all of us to be aware and participate in what we’re voting on. Everyone wants the benefits, but there is a price. We have to figure out where that happy level is.”