Efforts by some council members to trim the property tax in a $168 million budget were unsuccessful Monday. The Minot City Council approved a 2013 budget with a tax increase for property owners.
Under the estimated mill levy, the 2013 tax for each $100,000 of home value would be $412. That compares with $345 per 100,000 of value in 2012, although the 2013 estimate could change with final certification of land values. The taxes in 2012 came in somewhat lower than budgeted once the county certified property values. The amount is for city taxes only and doesn't include county, park or school taxes.
The amount of the tax increase about 19 percent without considering any rise in home values concerned the council.
Alderman Milt Miller said he is concerned for people on limited incomes and renters who could see rents go up to cover their landlords' costs.
"I just think this is going to push them over the edge," he said. "This just might push people out of this town."
Mayor Curt Zimbelman said he hears from people who are serious about moving away.
"They are just to the point where something has to change. So I am concerned as well with the increase that we are looking at right now," he said.
Minot residents Charles Tuttle, a supporter of the statewide measure to abolish property taxes, and Woody Thorpe, a former Democratic state legislator, both asked the council to address the property taxes. Both asked the council to look at eliminating tax breaks for special groups and suggested looking to the state for tax relief.
Alderman Scott Knudsvig sought to cut $500,000 from a $2 million line item for street improvements and came close on a 6-7 vote. But there was opposition to cutting money for roads when construction costs have risen and street problems abound.
Alderman Dean Frantsvog moved to cut the 31.5 new employee positions in the budget to 15, recommending that the remainder be considered for 2014.
"Minot has grown to the point where we need those people," Alderman Larry Frey argued. "We need the personnel to do justice to the people of Minot, to provide them with the services that they need and expect from us."
The motion to limit the staff increase failed 5-8. The 31.5 positions add 10.98 mills to the budget, or $49 for each $100,000 of home value.
Alderman Blake Krabseth, who unsuccessfully tried last week to get the council to cut three of the new employee positions, went after $250,000 from street maintenance Monday.
"Even if it's symbolic, we need to send some type of message to the citizens," he said.
Frey said if the city doesn't have the money to maintain what it has, it needs to reconsider spending federal Community Development Block Grant dollars on infrastructure to expand the city.
Krabseth's motion garnered support from Knudsvig, Frantsvog, Milt Miller and Amy Moen, who also had supported limiting staff increases, but still failed 5-8.
Only about $13 million of the $168 million budget is property-tax spending. Most of the money comes from other sources, including $67 million in CDBG money.
Alderman Bob Miller called the budget responsible.
"This is a very realistic attempt to meet our responsibilities to the citizens," he said.
The final 10-3 vote split the council along the same lines as last week's approval on first reading. Knudsvig, Miller and Frantsvog voted against the budget, while voting for the plan were Krabseth, Moen, Frey, Bob Miller, Jim Hatlelid, Mark Jantzer, Dave Lehner, Lisa Olson, George Withus and Kevin Connole. Tom Seymour was absent.
New staff positions in the budget include four patrol officers and three detectives in the police department, an assistant fire chief, fire inspector and two firefighters, a finance internal auditor, two dispatchers, three building, electrical and mechanical inspectors, an inspection administrative clerk, a traffic maintenance worker, an assistant city planner, three employees in sanitation, an equipment operator in each the landfill, cemetery and streets, two employees in utilities, two airport operation technicians, a library assistant and a public information officer.