Prior to last week’s city council meeting, councilmen and city staff held a budget workshop for the 2013-14 financial year.
While not the final budget to go before the council, the first draft of the budget created in the workshop indicated the city’s tax rate will effectively remain the same through the next year.
“It is just a touch lower,” City Administrator Jeff Kooistra said.
The current tax rate is 46.653 cents per $100 of assessed value of a home. The new rate will be 46.355 cents.
“Our rates have been in that ballpark since 08-09,” Kooistra said.
While the tax rate is effectively unchanged, the city administrator said the city will be doing something new with its budget by creating a capital projects fund.
“We’re taking the capital projects and instead of putting them in the operating budget, we’re putting them in their own fund,” he said.
Kooistra said this change is being made to address an issue with such projects as they oftentimes run over several years. Having a separate fund will allow for easier budgeting as well as accounting for these projects, he said.
“It’s just going to make it more practical,” he said.
Funds for capital projects generally come from developers or bonds, Kooistra said, and it is considered in-and-out money as it is often used as quickly as it is collected. This up-and-down flow of funds can create trouble with annual comparisons of operating budgets.
“This way, that’s hilled out of an operating budget,” he said.
While this upcoming year will serve as a transition year — due to some capital projects running over from the current financial year — Kooistra said the city will be able to give a better account of its budget down the road.
The city is also working on creating more reserves for a rainy day. They currently have roughly $30,000 reserved within the streets fund.
“There’s some money there if we had to do something major,” Kooistra said.
He said the city is also looking at creating a reserve within the general fund, though he said it will take some years as the city does not want to increase taxes.
“We’re working on doing this with our current revenue sources,” he said. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”
Kooistra said that while he cannot predict the future, he feels the tax rate will continue to remain the same as development comes to the city.
“What we’ve seen here in the last couple of years is development is picking back up,” he said.
This additional growth in both housing and commercial development will create a boost to assessment valuations, he said, which in turn helps keep taxes low. Even if a housing development happens outside of Gretna’s jurisdiction, the development will be reflected in a possible savings in county taxes.
Kooistra said he has been very pleased with the development of next year’s budget and credited city staff and council members for all their work and effort.
“We understand it affects everybody, so we put importance on it,” he said. “I’m really pleased we’ve been able to hold the line and keep services up.”
City budgets are due to the State of Nebraska by Sept. 20.