Lewisburg residents could see taxes go up

Friday, June 20, 2014

By Karen Hall

Editor

Lewisburg city councilmen were still talking about their budget work session Tuesday evening while they were enjoying CKNA's hospitality on Wednesday.

A tape recording of the work session starts with Mayor Jim Bingham stating, "It looks like being the first time in over a quarter of a century that we're going to raise taxes!"

He encouraged councilmen to pass a continuation budget to keep the city operating after June 30, so that there will be a period of time for thought and public comments.

"We don't need to pressure ourselves into doing something (passing the 2014-2015 budget) we can't stand up and defend," said Bingham. "The final product will be something we can sell. I hope we can present ourselves to the public in as united a way as we can."

"How much money are we in the hole?" asked Councilman Robin Minor, referring to the figure for the end of the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

"$302,000," said Treasurer Donna Park. "That's based on the revenue I project to come in. It's a snapshot of what we think may happen. I have scrubbed and scrubbed them (the figures). On revenue, that's the best I can come up with."

Taking the revenue and expenditures for grants, and projected capital expenditures out of the calculation still results in a minus number of over $100,000.

"So at the end of the year, we'll be $104,000 in the hole" just to keep the city operating," said Councilman Trigg Cathey.

"Right," answered Park.

"What are the taxpayers going to have to come up with?" asked Minor.

"Thirteen cents," Park said.

"To recap," said Bingham. "What you're bringing to us is: we would have to raise property tax 13 cents just to break even. Wow!

"We raise it 13 cents and not even address the pool and the Rec Center repairs," he continued. "I'm shocked."

"Or it could come out of fund balance," said Park. "We have $4 million that is unrestricted."

Councilmen agreed it would not be fair to residents or future councils to deplete the city's reserves in this fashion.

"I've got more than I can chew on," said Bingham.

"I'm sick at my stomach," Minor said.

"Me too," said Councilman Odie Whitehead Jr. "If we should have a major problem in one of our departments, we'd really be sunk."

"This is enough for me tonight," said Councilman Steve Thomas.

"Pray for us," said Bingham as the work session adjourned.

The calculation of how much tax a property owner pays is a complicated one, but Park worked out an example for the Tribune. If the tax rate was raised by 13 cents, a person who paid $363 in property tax last year would pay $395 this year.