The Gering City Council directed Finance Director Renee Jimenez to add a five cent public safety levy to the budget document being developed for the coming fiscal year.
Council members made that direction clear on an informal 6-2 tally as they worked with staff to try to close an anticipated 2021 shortfall of about $250,000.
Mayor Tony Kaufman supported the idea, saying the levy would amount to $50 per year for a property valued at $100,000, something many would consider a reasonable price to solidify the budgets for police and fire protection. Acceptance of the levy, which the city already has authority to impose, would create a sinking fund that would take care of items that currently get paid out of the general fund, such as a lease for tasers, or occasionally out of other funds.
The directive to staff was among many considered during the Monday workshop. Although a 3 cent reduction in the general levy was proposed as part of the public safety levy, council told Jimenez to leave the current levy of .2927 intact.
The council also agreed to a five percent reduction in electric rates, leaving the increases in water and sanitation rates agreed upon at a prior workshop in place. The effect, said Jimenez, was that a customer using just the minimum of city utility services would see a monthly overall increase of about $1.00, which would become an overall decrease as electricity usage rose above the base level of 100 kWh per month.
The proposal to add a cell phone occupation tax died for lack of a second after councilman Ben Backus expressed concerns there “needed to be some give and take… It can’t all be take, take, take.”
The budgetary process has been a bit different this year, as city staff has been working to modify the accounting to minimize transfers among the general, electric and other accounts in an effort to right-size spending to revenue.