Sioux City budget cuts aren't enough to avoid a tax increase - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Sioux City budget cuts aren't enough to avoid a tax increase

SIOUX CITY (KTIV)- The proposals are in, and Sioux City property owners are set for a tax increase at an average of $31 next year.

The Sioux City City Council went in to the Fiscal Year 2015 budget negotiations with lots of concerns. "I mean, these are tight times. These are unfortunate times," Bob Scott, Mayor of Sioux City said.

The council asked every department to propose one percent cuts to their operating budget, something Mayor Bob Scott says was painful, but necessary, to avoid tax increases for Sioux City property owners."With increasing costs and not a lot of revenue from taxes because we haven't expanded this community, quite frankly, the way we should have in the last ten years, we're paying the price for that now," Scott said.

The final budget comes in with a tax levy of $16.37. For the average homeowner, figured with a $100,000 home, the tax burden will increase by $31. However, Mayor Scott says that's not all the city's fault."Typical businesses, that's what people need to understand, are going to get a $55 decrease. Again, we have no control over that because of the rollback formula set by the state," Scott said.

City officials say the tax increase could have been a lot worse. Hours at the Long Lines Recreation Center will be cut, saving $4,400. The new schedule hasn't been determined yet. Hours at the Morningside and Perry Creek Library Branches will also be reduced, saving more than $27,000. The Morningside library will close an hour earlier every day, and Perry Creek will be closed on Saturdays. 
The city council also cut a $30,000 part-time clerical position at the airport, decreased the Art Center budget by $29,000, reorganized $40,000 worth of management at the City Museum, and placed the city in a hiring freeze.

But, Scott says if the city's overtime hours, especially in the police and fire department, keep up, it won't be enough."There's a balance of watching that overtime, and I'm not very sure we're good at tracking that," Scott said.

In an effort to organize existing funds, City Manager Bob Padmore redistributed his former duties as Assistant City Manager and Finance Director to other departments, saving the city $190,000.

So what did the city keep in the budget? The police department proposed cutting an officer and keeping less officers on watch in Sioux City, but the city council voted against that. Sioux City Fire-Rescue departments will operate as usual, but Mayor Scott said the $16,000 of overtime at the fire department this year was much too much. Lewis Pool, originally on the chopping block, will stay open. 
And the city council kept two new positions, a recreation director and a new city attorney, in the budget.

Mayor Scott says he disagreed with that decision by the council. "I think the legal department needs additional help, but this is just not the time. I think the parks need help, but again, when we're asking other departments to cut, it just doesn't appear that this is the time," Mayor Scott said.

While the council hasn't finalized the budget, Mayor Scott said he wouldn't be surprised if this proposal ended up as the final budget, because the city council seemed unanimous on most of their decisions.
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