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Springfield OKs bump in millage rate
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Springfield City Council members have voted to raise the millage rate, but officials say the increase won’t have much effect on most property owners.

Springfield’s millage rate will be increasing to 4.8 mills. The previous millage rate, 4.3, had been in effect since 2006. Springfield’s millage rate had been as high as 6.75 in 1999.

“This millage rate is not generating any more money than years past,” said City Manager Brett Bennett. “Throughout the county and city, nearly every single property value has dropped, some significantly.”

Bennett said not every property owners’ taxes will remain the same or decrease.

“It shouldn’t be a significant effect,” he said of the rise in the millage. “It should be no change.”

At the approved millage rate, the city is expecting to take in $235,174 in property taxes, more than last year’s total of $218,000 but less than the $258,000 it received in 2009.

The city’s property digest also has fallen sharply over that time. The net digest was in excess of $60 million in 2009 but is now less than $49 million.

“Hearing tax increase is a negative,” said council member Jerry Maennche, “and the first thing that goes through your mind is ‘where is the money going?’”

Added council member Steve Shealy: “We too live in Springfield. But to operate the city, to provide safety, that’s the way to go.”

Council member Gary Weitman said the city would rather go up on millage a little bit now, rather than having a much larger hike in future years in order to catch up on needed revenues.

“We went years and years and years without an increase,” he said.

The city plans to put in drainage improvements and sidewalks, but those will be paid for out of reserves or special purpose local option sales taxes, Bennett said. The city wants to put in a sidewalk to connect Early Street with Ash Street, and it wants to improve the drainage along First Street.

“We have a lot of infrastructure improvements,” Mayor Barton Alderman said.

Because of the proposed increase, the city had to have three hearings on the millage rate. The final hearing was held Tuesday at 6 p.m. The first two did not elicit any residents, but Thomas DePace questioned council members about the millage rate and what the city intended to with the revenue. He also pointed out that fire fees went up last year.

“The economy is still bad,” DePace said. “Some things are a luxury.”

DePace also urged council members to do something about the city’s appearance, and council members replied they want to address those areas — but some places are on private property, and the city is barred from undertaking work there.

“It’s not us — trust me,” Maennche said to DePace. “It would be a lot better if we had more people take as much as interest as you.”

The city council is concerned about the city’s “curb appeal,” Shealy acknowledged, and it streetscape effort and the Mars Theatre are examples of their efforts.

“We do want the business to come to this place,” he said. “We do not think the city of Springfield is drying up. We want to do everything we can to foster growth.”

“Cities do die if you don’t do anything,” Weitman said.

Council member Kenny Usher suggested DePace get involved with the Springfield Revitalization Corporation, which Usher added has spurred the city to action on issues.

“We’re open for suggestions,” Shealy said.