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Morris City Council sets preliminary tex levy with 6.9 percent increase over 2012

MORRIS - The Morris City Council has passed a preliminary 2013 budget of about $9.17 million, with a preliminary tax levy of about $1.34 million - a 6.9 percent increase over 2012. From this point forward, the city can only lower the proposed tax levy.

City Manager Blaine Hill told the council that he was still shooting for a levy increase of between three and five percent. In a memo to the council, Hill outlined a few issues in the budget:

• The budget includes an overall decrease in the city budget of six percent, but it includes some reductions from the 2012 budget where reserves were spent. Hill will recommend more reserve spending this year for one-time costs like street improvements, equipment and safety concerns.

• At the same time, there is an overall increase in general fund expenses of four percent, although some of these expenses are offset with revenue.

• Local Government Aid has been frozen since 2010, and likely will not change soon.

• There is no levy increase due to a new bond this year, since the Pacific Avenue project was funded primarily with federal and state funds. However, there will likely be a levy increase from a bond project in 2014, depending on how the 2013 construction projects are funded.

• There is a recommendation to increase utility fees three percent, and review of other city fees before the final levy and budget are approved.

"I feel very good about the preliminary tax levy and budget," Hill said in his memo. "Maintenance, fuel, equipment, and unknowns seem to be driving the budget. Overall it has been a very good year this year, so hopefully the rest goes smoothly."

The next step will be to schedule a city council work session to review the budget and levy in more detail.