A ‘Shock’ to Woodbury’s 2013 Budget Plans

A reduction from the state’s fiscal disparities program left the city with $481,000 less than initially projected.

As the Woodbury City Council wades through plans for the 2013 budget and levy, projections from a complicated state program came in lower than expected—$481,854, to be exact.

“That is a big change,” City Administrator Clint Gridley told the council during Wednesday night’s meeting.

Since 2000, Woodbury’s average increase from the program has been 9 percent, according to a council memo, and the city budgeted for a 7 percent increase this year.

When Gridley asked House Research about the city’s 9 percent reduction for 2013, officials there didn’t know why it happened.

“It’s a complicated program,” he said.

The fiscal disparities program “is a system for the partial sharing of commercial-industrial (C/I) property tax base among all jurisdictions within a geographic area,” according to a House webpage.

Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens called the news “kind of a shock,” and advocated for a preliminary plan that would increase taxes on the average value home in Woodbury by $15 under this year’s levy. The city will still be able reduce the property tax levy—about $29 million—but not increase it.

The measure passed 3-1. (Councilman Paul Rebholz was absent.)

Councilwoman Julie Ohs agreed with the mayor, and said that option was the “most responsible.”

Councilman Christopher Burns was the lone dissenter, saying there are other methods available for the city to reduce the budget.

“I don’t think now is the time to be raising taxes on our residents,” he said.

Ohs responded by saying she does not support a tax hike, merely that the city will have other opportunities between now and the final budget and levy votes to close the gap.

Councilwoman Amy Scoggins also said the city will be able to revisit potential cuts in the coming months. “But for tonight, I’m OK with it,” she said.

Gridley said the city will have a clearer picture of the budget situation once Washington County provides its updated property valuations. He’s hoping Woodbury has that information by the end of the month.

Find more information on the options on the city's website.

The council unanimously approved setting the annual Truth in Taxation hearing fro Wednesday, Dec. 12.

For those wondering why their home value is decreasing while their property taxes are going up, Gridley reminded residents that property values distribute the tax burden but do not create it.


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