By a split vote, the Springfield City Council voted to keep the millage rate at 4.3.
Councilmen Charles Hinely, Max Neidlinger and Jeff Ambrose voted against the millage rate, while Councilmen Kenny Usher, Butch Kieffer and Troy Allen voted for it. Mayor Barton Alderman cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of maintaining the current rate.
Ambrose wanted to reduce the budget by eliminating the additional police officer position and thereby reduce the millage.
“We’ve got contingency funds in pretty much every account in case something comes up,” he said.
Neidlinger said if the money was in the budget, even if it was not used, the residents would have to pay for it.
Allen did not agree.
“We’re talking about money budgeted, not money spent,” he said. “You’re talking about money collected. That’s not apples to apples.”
Ambrose said if the millage was put at 4.07 the city should collect only $13,000 less than what is currently budgeted.
“If you keep the millage the same, you’re increasing the amount of funds we’re supposed to collect,” he said.
City Manager Brett Bennett said the key to that was assuming that the city would collect all of the taxes this year.
“If you take the position out and reduce the millage, you are still going into your reserves,” he said. “The problem that I see is a large part of our revenue in general fund is consumption based, sales tax. We’re taking a guess at that.”
Hinely said he was in favor of cutting the millage back to 4.07.
“If a mill is worth more this year than it was last year, and that’s what we’re going to base our taxes on. If we leave the millage rate the same, we’re going to take in more money,” Hinely said. “We’re going to take in more money than we did last year. I don’t get where $13,000 is such a big deal with our budget.”
Ambrose said the consensus around the city is that the council is raising taxes. Alderman said that if residents were that irate, why was no one at the five public hearings the city has had on the tax rate.
Alderman said he’s not hearing any complaints about the city taxes.
“We had one person here who made a comment and she was here before the meeting because she was here for something else,” the mayor said. “She made the comment that she’s never had a problem with Springfield city taxes.”
He said it’s the idea that even though it’s a little bit of money, by reducing the millage rate the council would show it’s trying to save residents a little bit.
“We’re raising the taxes at a time when it’s not going to look good for us to be raising the taxes,” Hinely said.
Allen didn’t think the amount saved by the average resident would be worth the loss in revenue.
“You’re talking about a meal at Burger King,” he said.
Bennett explained that the projected increase in revenue was not from increased taxes, but due to the digest increasing. Bennett said there would be a slight increase in revenue if all the taxes are collected.
Ambrose insisted the city was raising taxes, but Alderman attempted to counter his argument.
“If you’ve got a $100,000 home at 4.3 mills, we’re not raising your taxes. You are going to pay the same thing you paid last year,” Alderman said. “Every time we annex property, that adds more value to our tax digest that means there is more value to the property in Springfield. That’s where the extra money is coming from, not that we’re going up and jacking up some homeowner’s property taxes.”
Bennett said a resident’s tax will only increase if the home value increased.
“Springfield is not changing anything,” he said.
Alderman explained that if someone rezones a piece of property from residential to business the property taxes will increase, but with the millage rate staying the same if the assessment stayed the same the person would pay the same amount in taxes as last year.
Bennett said that by leaving the millage rate alone, it is getting more of its tax revenues from commercial growth. When the city annexes property it increases revenue, but it also must provide more in services.
“We may not need another police officer to provide a service to those areas, but we have to clean ditches, we have to sweep streets. That’s the whole point of growth,” he said.
Ambrose said he felt part of the point was to be able to eliminate Springfield’s city tax in the future.
“When that day wonderful day happens that will be great,” Usher said.
There will be a public hearing on the budget on Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. The council will vote on the budget on at the Dec. 9 meeting.