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Woodbury: Council wants more details, may lower levy

Woodbury City Council member Amy Scoggins said about the possibility of a levy increase in 2010 that if the city is "going to be spending any extra (taxpayer) money on anything, you better have good reason to back it up."

Woodbury City Council members want more information before finalizing a property tax hike that is higher than earlier proposed.

The council last week approved a preliminary levy increase of 3.18 percent for 2010, but members said they want city staff to justify that increase by providing more details about a predicted drop in property tax collections.

"If you're going to be spending any extra (taxpayer) money on anything, you better have good reason to back it up," council member Amy Scoggins said.

Under the preliminary budget plan council members approved 5-0 Sept. 9, the city would collect $27.56 million in local property tax revenue for 2010. The city's operating expenses would be $25.97 million, 0.2 percent higher than current spending.

City finance staff said the council could choose the 3.18 percent levy increase or stick to a 2.55 percent hike discussed at budget meetings last month. Council members opted for the larger increase in the preliminary budget, but said they are inclined to approve a smaller levy increase when they finalize the budget in December, unless city staff can provide information justifying the larger hike.

The effect of the change is minimal on the average value home of $283,100. The 3.18 percent increase would result in no change to the city portion of an average-value home's property tax statement. The smaller levy increase would save that home $6.

City administrator Clint Gridley said the larger levy would help soften the blow of what he predicts will be a drop in property tax collections next year. And a larger levy increase would mean less need for reserve fund to balance the budget.

Scoggins said while Gridley and other city financial officials are good at staying on top of fiscal issues, she is not yet convinced there will be a tax collection problem.

"You're not alone," council member Paul Rebholz said. "We've got some more work to do."

Gridley said he will give the council more information about property tax collections and delinquent payments.

The 2010 city budget is to be approved Dec. 9, when the council holds its annual Truth in Taxation meeting.

City collections represent about 27 percent of a property tax bill.