The City of Brooklet held its first of three public hearings on a proposed millage rate increase on Tuesday morning, but the chairs were mostly empty.
Mayor Hendrix and council members addressed a crowd of four on Tuesday, though all three had questions and feedback on the proposed increased.
The council voted during the September meeting to advertise a proposed increase of 2 millage points. Legally, the city can pass an increase up to 2 mills, and including the full 2 mills, but nothing more without readvertising. The city, while in a balanced financial status now, is seeking to boost reserve accounts and a capital water fund for emergencies, which has been placed on the back burner as the city has grown substantially over the last decade all while operating costs have increased across the board.
The growth is good, but there is very little room for anymore growth and the city is relying on the water fund to prop up operating expenses. Brooklet now has to plan to move from a growing city to a sustainable city which means, for the first time in 16 years, a tax increase is necessary, according to council members.
About 40% of the city’s budget comes from tax dollar revenue. The remaining 60% comes from fines, forfeitures, fees and things of the sort. The city has been relying on the water fund to make up the difference, despite the growth, which is perfectly legal. It is risky, though. Should any major expense need to come from the water account, like repairs to the water tower, the city would need to take out a loan. State law says cities can only borrow from the water fund if there is no debt levied against the account. If a loan was taken out for water tower repair or a mega well issue, the water account funds would be held in their own account and the city would have an immediate money shortage.
With a full 2 millage point increase, the current rate of 6.696 mills would increase to 8.696. According to the county tax office, on a $125,000 house, the increase would be roughly $100 per year increase.
On Tuesday, former Brooklet mayor Joe Grooms, former councilman John Frazier, and Jody Dellinger all expressed concern over the spike all at once, especially for fixed income residents. Council members said the goal is to avoid having to come back to the drawing table every year and asking for another tax increase.
Grooms said that when he was mayor, they were able to make do with what was collected through fines, fees, and property taxes. Current councilman Jim Stanoff said that costs have gone up as has the cost of living. He referenced a dump truck repair that used to be $100 a decade ago that is now $350.
The answers provided didn’t seem to satisfy those in attendance.
Councilman Greg Schlierf said at the end of the meeting that his feedback since the announced increase has been about 50/50 split. “Some said ‘We knew this was coming,’ and the others have said what you all have said here today,” but he went on to emphasize that there is a cost to the services the city of Brooklet provides.
The City will hold two more hearings before the next council meeting, one on October 17 at 3:00 p.m. and one on October 19 at 6:00 p.m.. Both will be held at City Hall. The next regularly scheduled council meeting is set for October 19 at 7:00 p.m., immediately following the final public hearing.
Take a look at some of the others in the region and of similar size in other parts of the state:
|Brooklet||1,593||8.696 (with increase)|