Tax hike of 1/3 mill proposed for city

The city has proposed a $25.4 million budget for 2017 with a property tax hike of 0.35 mills, or about 1/3 of 1 mill of real estate tax.

That’s $35 more per year for those with properties assessed at $100,000, said Mayor Gabriel J. Campana, as he presented the proposed budget to City Council on Tuesday night.

This year’s budget was $25.2 million. The city plans to have $137,390 in reserve. The various departments are requesting about $500,000 more than this year.

As is normal, council members have declined to comment before getting a look at the spending plan.

Council begins a process of either adding to or cutting the proposed budget during two budget work sessions planned for 7 p.m. Dec. 5 and Dec. 7.

The first reading of the proposed budget is at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8.

Campana’s brief overview indicates he plans to maintain existing services and the 220 city employees.

Preventing a tax hike as proposed was made more difficult because of  ongoing collective bargaining unit contracts, an unfunded federal mandate to recertify the levee and rising health care costs, Campana said.

Council further took steps to assist the city fire department as it plans to buy a web-based program called Emergency Reporting to replace the outdated Fire House system.

While the difference in cost is about $1,800, council thought it brought the department into the 21st century by providing a system that can transfer years of files, provide maps and data at fire command staff’s fingertips and enhance the value of the department as it responds to structure fires and accidents throughout the city.

Council further assisted the police department in its request to buy a 2016 Ford Taurus model patrol car to replace one destroyed in an accident involving a police officer caused by an intoxicated driver.

The insurance company will provide a check to the city of $16,900 and the city plans to look for savings to meet the total cost of the car estimated to be $32,345 and not to exceed $34,000.