Information from WYSH Radio
Note: This story was updated at 10:52 a.m. May 20.
The Clinton City Council voted on Monday to approve its budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1 on first reading, and it includes a 15.5-cent property tax increase.
Last week, WYSH reported that a three- or four-cent tax increase would be necessary to pay for an increase in insurance costs and to pay for the salaries and benefits of four full-time firefighters. The costs associated with those firefighters were paid for by a FEMA grant for the past two years, but they became the responsibility of the city this year.
Following a late-week budget workshop, another seven cents was added to the proposed tax increase to pay for the city taking over all of the costs associated with school resource officers at the city’s three schools ($62,000), hiring a codes enforcement/police officer ($50,000), and to set aside $100,000 to start a street-paving fund aimed at preventing the city from having to borrow money for street improvement projects in the future.
The 10-cent tax increase passed 5-1 with Mayor Scott Burton casting the dissenting vote. (WYSH editor’s note: Originally we indicated Mayor Burton had voted for the 10-cent increase, but that was not the case. WYSH regrets the error.)
A motion was made to hire three new firefighters and four new police officers but was later amended to reflect hiring two people in each department. Those four new hires added another 5.5 cents on to the tax rate, and that proposal was passed 5-to-1 with Burton casting the only dissenting vote.
“You never want a tax increase, (but) I hope that people understand I think we’ve done it for the right reasons,” Clinton City Manager Roger Houck said Tuesday morning. “We’ve done them for public safety (and) infrastructure improvements, so I think we have done it for the right reasons.”
Houck also said that while not every homeowner in the city will reap this benefit, the opening of the new downtown fire station made possible by the hiring of those four FEMA-funded firefighters helped knock the city’s fire protection rating, or ISO, down from a “4” to a “2.” Many homeowners, depending upon their insurance carriers, will see a decrease in their rates because of that improvement, which could help offset the increase in city taxes.
The current property tax rate in the city is 76 cents per $100 of assessed value.
The state has not yet certified the new tax rate, and indications are that the certified tax rate may not be set until August or even September. Second and final reading of the budget—with or without the new certified tax rate—will be held next month.
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