March 11, 2014

Improvements to the City of Carroll's water collection system and street work emerged as key spending items in a budget council members approved Monday night for the fiscal year staring July 1.

The following are some highlights of spending items in the city's $18 million budget: $1.7 million for the addition of wells to the city's water system; $525,000 for Corridor of Commerce streetscape work on Court Street from Fourth Street to Seventh Street; $50,000 for the Northwest Park tennis courts overlay; $100,000 to transform the former tennis courts at Graham Park into two regulation-sized basketball courts; $650,000 for Merchants Park rehabilitation; $50,000 for a bandshell upgrade at Graham Park; and $50,000 for emerald ash borer infestation planning and pre-emptive removals; and $58,000 for three new outdoor warning sirens.

A $1.5 million street project will involve issuing $800,000 in general-obligation bond debt to be financed over three years with about $230,000 going toward the debt in fiscal year 2015.

The council dropped plans for any funding in the next fiscal year's budget of a dog park in the city.

Under the approved budget, commercial property owners will see a 16 percent increase in their city tax bills this coming fiscal year. Meanwhile, homeowners in Carroll will face 6 to 7 percent increases in their city property tax.

The reason for the increase stems from state equalization orders increasing the assessed value of all commercial property in Carroll County by 32 percent and the value of residential property by 10 percent. The orders are based on a review of property sales and a state analysis showing the selling prices well out in front of the values on which property is actually taxed.

The council approved a city tax rate from $12.90 per $1,000 valuation to $11.98 per $1,000 valuation - a 7.4 percent decrease.

The result of the equalization orders and the proposed levy would mean a home assessed at $120,000 for the current tax year's purposes has jumped in value to $132,000. Owners of such properties will pay $802 in city taxes, up from $755, a $47 increase, under the plan.

A commercial property that had been assessed at $1 million for the current tax year is now assessed at $1.32 million and gets a 16 percent hit with taxes jumping $2,123 from $12,905 to $15,028. (These figures represent only the city askings. The county, school district and Des Moines Area Community College also tax property.)

The actual increase in property tax revenue for the city from this year to the next fiscal cycle would be roughly $350,000.

City Finance director Laura Schaefer will file the budget with Carroll County Auditor's Office and state officials.