The Augusta City Council will have a public hearing on the 2014 budget on August 12.
If the budget is approved as it was amended Monday night, residents would see a 1.176 mill increase from 41.053 now to 42.229 next year - an increase of about 2.8%.
About 75 percent of that increase is due to debt financing on the new dam and spillway project that was completed this year. The rest is due to additions approved by the governing body.
Some of that increase is to cover the potential of a five percent merit pay increase for city employees. At the last work session, the council learned that 37.5 percent of its senior managers were within three years of retirement. That made keeping the city's top employees a priority. The governing body has to budget for the entire potential amount even though the increases are merit increase and must be earned by employees. Some will receive the entire five percent although most will fall in a range between two percent and five percent.
The governing body also approved adding back a police officer that the safety department has been operating without for several years. One additional police vehicle was added in the budget as well.
Another point of contention was an allocation of $75,000 to park improvements.
"One problem this city has is that we haven't increased the mill levy for several years," said Councilor Mike Wallace. "Now we are paying the price for that."
"For everything we are getting in this budget, I stand ready to defend the increase," said Council Ron Reavis. The additional mills will cost a family in a home worth $100,000 about $13 more per year in property taxes.
Matt Malone wasn't convinced.
"I will not vote for a budget that increases the mill levy," Malone said. "We can find that amount to cut out of the budget instead of raising taxes."
But the consensus of the council was to increase the amount Interim City Manager Josh Shaw proposed plus about an additional half a mill.
"I understand the concern that it just goes higher and higher," Mayor Kristey Williams said. "But some of the increase is due to a lower valuation in our property values."
The city's portion of the mill levy has been this high before, but the addition of the dedicated sales tax for street projects allowed it to drop to around 38 mills. Over the years, slight annual increases has brought it back to this point.
Just because the city budgets for 42.229 mills doesn't mean they can't voted to decrease that amount. But the proposed budget will be published in the Gazette on Thursday, August 1. The council can vote to decrease the mill levy at that point, but it can not be any higher than the published amount.
Page 2 of 2 - The hearing on the budget will be held at at 7 p.m., August 12 in City Hall.