Today is Thursday, August 17, 2017

Current spending won't hike taxes

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City Finance Commissioner Robert Springer says a Lebanon City Council member's quotation of him last week needs some clarification to be more specific about the city's financial condition.

After last week's council meeting, Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath said that Springer had told her the city will need to add taxes if it keeps spending at its current rate.

However, Springer was not present at the council meeting to confirm or discuss Warmath's statement. He said this week that new taxes will only be required if the city goes ahead and funds three large projects that are proposed for the next budget year after the upcoming budget, 2015-16, that the council currently is in the process of passing.

The 2015-16 budget passed the first of three readings required to enact it by a 4-1 vote, with Warmath voting no and Ward 2 Councilor Lanny Jewell absent.

Warmath said she voted no because she doesn't approve of funding the construction of Fire Station No. 4 in the southwest section of the city, beside Highway 109, due to her concerns that no funding is available to staff it as well as Springer's description of the city's financial condition.

Springer, back in country, responds
However, Springer commented Monday, "I was out of the country at that time and today saw where it was reported that I had told a city councilperson 'that the city will need to add taxes if it keeps spending at its current rate.'"

Clarifying that report, the finance commissioner said, "What I have told all council members who have discussed the 2016-17 budget with me one-on-one is as follows:

"If the city has three 'major' projects coming together in one budget year, like the following budget in 2016-17, then growth in revenues will not cover the debt service and expenditures of three major projects and there will have to be new revenue. If the future budget has all three major projects (debt service and staffing of new fire hall, Legends Drive and Beckwith Road) in it, then increasing fee revenue will most likely not be adequate to meet the need and would likely require a tax increase."

Springer added, "I want to be clear that if the city keeps spending at its 'current rate,' then most likely there would not be a need for a property tax increase - it is only if the three major projects that have been discussed at length before come at the same time in the 2016-17 budget that would change the scenario - not the current spending rate."

Writer Connie Esh can be contacted at cewrites@yahoo.com.

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