A proposed property tax hike to defend Fremont's controversial immigration law is heading to the City Council.
The council at its Aug. 31 meeting will consider a 2011 budget that includes $750,000 to help pay the projected annual cost of defending the voter-approved ordinance. The public will have an opportunity to comment.
Two civil rights organizations have challenged the law, which is on hold and tied up in federal court. The law bans the housing and hiring of illegal immigrants in the town of 25,000 residents.
City Administrator Robert Hartwig said the council most likely will not vote on the proposed 18 percent increase in the city's portion of the property tax rate until Sept. 14. If approved, the owner of a $200,000 house would pay about $116 more in taxes next year.
Earlier, city officials projected an annual legal defense cost of about $1 million. Hartwig said that amount was lowered after input from Kris Kobach, the Kansas City, Mo., attorney the city has retained to defend the ordinance.
If the estimates of legal costs — based on experiences in other U.S. cities that also use Kobach to defend similar ordinances — prove to be high, the excess would be returned to taxpayers when the lawsuits are decided.
Although Kobach has agreed to represent Fremont at a reduced cost, administrators anticipate other expenses related to the lawsuits. Hartwig said those costs include travel and lodging fees for Kobach, as well as outside assistance such as expert witnesses and support personnel.
“We're trying to be good stewards with the city's money,” Hartwig said. “We can't afford any surprises.”
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