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Afton approves $91,000 levy increase

The Afton City Council approved a 4.5 percent tax levy increase last week as part of the 2018 budget.

The $2,133,786 total tax levy, which includes debt service as well as general fund and transfer levies, represents a $91,886 increase over the 2017 levy.

Residents whose property values at $500,000 will pay about $80 more to the city's portion of property taxes for a total of $1,694.

Commercial property of the same value will see a $127 increase to about $3,114 in city property taxes.

Among the main factors driving the increase is an additional $33,000 for road updates.

They city completed nearly 17 miles of road improvements in 2017, including extensive work on downtown Afton's main street.

Although the city initially planned to increasing the 2018 levy by $150,000 to complete the project, they instead opted to improve the remaining seven-mile stretch over the next six years, resulting in a smaller levy increase.

The $33,000 increase is accompanied by $50,000 the city redirected from a 2017 high-speed internet project to the street improvement fund.

The annual street project funding level now sits at $460,000. About 85 percent of that funding has been budgeted toward debt services on a $3.5 million bond for 2017 street improvements.

Next year's tax levy increase also includes an additional $50,000 for capital investments such as bridge replacements.

Although the city has not yet developed a funding plan to replace bridges, a budget overview said the city engineers are working to evaluate the timing and cost for the projects. The city routinely inspects five bridges throughout Afton to evaluate repair or replacement needs.

Total general fund spending council members approved totals $1,243,890, a less than 1 percent increase over the 2017 budget.

Key expenses include:

• $5,870 in additional fire and ambulance operating expenses

• A $5,000 increase to police services from Washington County Sheriff's Office cost increases

• $5,000 for extra police patrols to enforce noise and speed laws

• An additional $11,000 in brush trimming along roadways

• $12,000 more for city employee wages and benefits

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