Photo by City of North Platte
Mayor Dwight Livingston
The North Platte city council quickly adpoted the 2017-18 budget Thursday, approving an overall 2.5% increase in the city's spending.The budget calls for a total of $550,000 more from property taxes to support the overall budget growth of 2.5%.
No one spoke Tuesday evening at budget hearings, setting the stage for the routine approval.
The city tax levy will remain the same as last year, but property valuations are about 9% higher than the year before, which will generate more income, city officials said.
Employee wages will increase by 2 percent.
“I think we have a good budget,” city administrator Jim Hawks said Tuesday. “We try to respect every tax dollar and every taxpayer. We try to prioritize and take care of our needs."
The council considered the budget during two work sessions – one to go over the line items and one to review the city’s annual promotional donations to the North Platte Chamber and Development office ($125,000) as well as $11,250 each to Nebraskaland Days, Keep North Platte and Lincoln County Beautiful, and the Community Development Corporation, which develops low-income housing.
That promotional spending will be the same as last year.
Hawks said the city has many needs but only so many dollars. He said the street repair budget is always underfunded.
“There is never enough for streets,” he said. “I think it is a national problem. Costs are so high and contractor availability is tight. We have to think about more revenue streams. Even the president is talking about it (federal dollars for infrastructure).
Hawks is a member of a statewide task force that he said is well aware of the need for more money for street and road maintenance and repairs.
Hawks said the Iron Eagle golf course will cost the city less during the next fiscal year, because the construction bond will be paid off in December, cutting the capital cost in half compared to the current year.
The golf course operating budget will be much the same as previous years. The city’s existing contract with the management company, Landscapes Unlimited, will expire next summer, so some decisions will be order then about the future of the course – to continue, modify or eliminate the operation.
In the fiscal year that just ended, the golf course revenues were about $50,000 under budget and expenses were about $37,000 more than budgeted.
The budget includes a 3.5% hike in electric rates. The electric hike will take effect Oct. 1. No other increases are budgeted in utility prices.
City sales tax income, which pays 26% of the city’s operations, is expected to be slightly lower next year.
Hawks said the budget foresees a decrease of $50,000, a 0.6% decline, in total sales tax receipts, due to the tougher retail economy. He said the loss of JC Penney in the Platte River Mall is an example of the retail environment.
Before the meeting ended Tuesday, Mayor Dwight Livingston thanked the city department heads for their hard work compiling the budget.