The Springfield City Council approved advertising the millage rate at 4.3 mills in a split vote Tuesday.
Councilmen Charles Hinely, Jeff Ambrose and Max Niedlinger voted against the rate, and Councilmen Kenny Usher, Butch Kieffer and Dennis Webb voted to approve the rate. Mayor Barton Alderman cast the tie-breaking vote to advertise the millage.
“Obviously we’re behind the curve on this, we need to set it,” Webb said.
Webb told the council if the millage remained at last year’s rate of 4.36, the city would collect approximately $225,000, and if the council wanted to cut the rate to keep the same revenue, the millage would be reduced to 3.707.
“This revenue can be used in places we can’t spend other money in,” Webb said. “Adding a city manager is basically going to cost us about $100,000 a year. We’ve got to be very careful going into this budget, because that money’s got to come from somewhere.”
Alderman said it was the first time he has had to cast a tie-breaking vote.
“I could not see delaying due to the time constraints,” he said. “We have to get tax bills out.”
Alderman said he would be afraid to cut the millage too much because expenses are increasing, and there is work the city needs to get done.
Hinely asked when the earliest the council could have a copy of the budget. Webb said there could be a very rough draft of the budget at the next meeting, and it would be more likely to have something on the budget at the first meeting in November.
Webb also said it’s not a matter of setting the budget.
“It’s getting the revenue in because if you don’t get that set,” he said, “you don’t get the tax bills out, you don’t get the money this year.”
Ambrose asked what would happen if the city did not need all of the tax revenue.
“Can we send the tax payers a refund?” Ambrose said.
City Attorney Charles Barrow told Ambrose the money would be rolled over to the following year, and the council could reduce the millage rate the following year if that happened.
“We all voted to hire a city manager,” Kieffer said, “knowing that it would cost us more money. This would not be a good time to make it more difficult to find the money to pay him.”
Kieffer said the city manager would not be the only increase in cost the city has. Hinely asked if it would be a good idea to have a better idea of the budget before voting on the millage.
Webb said if the council waited two weeks to set the millage, the city would not get tax bills out and would not receive property tax revenue this year.
Springfield resident Jeff Northway asked if there was extra money left from the current budget to help offset the cost of the city manager and asked if the budget should have been made before discussing the millage rate.
He asked if approaching the budget and millage this way could put the city in a bind and keep the city from having the money to pay its bills.
“We’re not going to be in a situation where there’s no money to pay the bills, and we’ll come up with a balanced budget by the end of the year,” Webb said.
Alderman asked if there would be a need for a public hearing since the millage rate would be set the same, and there would be an increase in revenue.
Barrow said he would have to check the exact law to advise the council when a public hearing is required.
Hinely worried the council didn’t know if the millage would bring in enough money for the city’s expenses. Webb said the city would have to set the budget with the revenue it has.
“We have always set the millage before the budget,” Webb said.
The majority of the budget comes from local option sales taxes and special purpose local option sales taxes.
Usher said he would like to set the millage rate to 4.3 instead of 4.36. At that rate, the city would bring in $222,000 in revenue, according to Webb.
Ambrose said he voted against the advertised rate because he would like to see a budget before setting the millage.
“I don’t want to set it too high,” Ambrose said.
He said he would like to get away from property taxes, and if a millage must be set, he wants it to be reduced.
Hinely said he would like to see a rough draft of the budget. He said the city just bought a spray field and it will need equipment, and he would like to make sure the city will be able to cover expenses.
“We’re shooting in the dark; it’s just too dark,” Hinely said.
Webb said the problem with the budget process is there is no way to know what the sales tax revenue will be. He said the council has to worry about revenue.
Webb said the city collects approximately $200,000 in property taxes for a budget of around $1 million.
“Property taxes should be kept as revenue, but not the primary revenue,” Webb said.