BY DAVID FISHER
MARTIN (June 8) — The top item for discussion during Martin City Board’s virtual meeting over the internet was a tax increase.
One of the top items under consideration was the budget for the coming fiscal year. The board approved the first reading of an ordinance adopting the annual budget and establishing a property tax rate for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2020 and ending June 30, 2021.
The ordinance sets the property tax at $1.7544 per $100 of assessed value on all real and business personal property. This amounts to a tax increase of $0.35 (25 percent) above the current fiscal year’s rate of $1.4044 per $100 of assessed value.
During discussion, Martin Mayor Randy Brundige stated this is the first tax increase in 18 years and is necessitated by the loss of sales tax revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The mayor said even after $1 million was cut from the budget, it still wasn’t enough to overcome the revenue shortfall.
“Is there some way we can do a hybrid between furloughing city employees and not filling vacant positions?” Alderman Scott Robbins asked.
“We have no vacant positions,” the mayor replied.
Mayor Brundige explained, if city employees are furloughed, it won’t help, because they would simply use their accumulated vacation time to make up for their loss of pay. Also, without a tax increase, there would be no money to fund the operating budgets of the city’s various departments. “They wouldn’t have anything to work with,” he said.
The mayor stressed the budgetary shortfall can’t be blamed on any of the ongoing projects. For example, he stated the library project will not affect the budget until 2022 or 2023.
“We’ve talked about it in past years, how our property taxes have not kept up, and it has finally caught up with us,” Mayor Brundige said. “It’s no one’s fault this pandemic has hit us. It cripples the budget.
“It’s a tough decision. I don’t like it, but it doesn’t look like we’re going to get any money out of the federal government. I hope they do, but I’m not banking on it.”
Alderman Robbins said, “This tax increase is going to affect businesses the most. We’ve asked them to close down the last six to eight weeks. Now, we’re going to ask them for more money to make sure the city is operating. So, I think the city ought to cut back just like everybody else is doing and come up with another plan that has some layoffs and cutbacks, rather than have a tax increase.”
Alderman Randy Edwards said. “Nobody likes taxes. I certainly don’t. But, this pandemic has really wreaked havoc on everybody.
Alderman David Belote said, “All of this was considered by the finance committee and approved unanimously.”
When the question was called on the motion, the budget was approved 5-1 with Alderman Robbins casting the only “no” vote.
A breakdown of the budget shows anticipated revenues and expenditures in the city’s various funds as follow:
General Fund: total revenues = $11,552,427; total expenditures = $11,056,388.
Street Aid Fund: total revenues = $632,147; total expenditures = $689,198.
Library Gift Fund: total revenues = $38,100; expenditures = $36,000.
Cemetery Fund: total revenues = $7,550; total expenditures = $2,500.
Drug Enforcement Fund: total revenues = $23,950; total expenditures = $23,950.
Solid Waste Fund: total revenues = $1,930,400; total expenditures = $1,689,394.
Water and Sewer Fund: total revenues = $3,324,500; total expenditures = $3,179,984.
Natural Gas Fund: total revenues = $3,139,000; total expenditures = $2,969,823.
A resolution to annex property located on Doe Drive, adjacent to the corporate limits, was unanimously approved by the board on first reading. The property was annexed at the request of property owners Adam and Jennings Wilson and includes a plan of service.
The first reading of an ordinance designating property located on Doe Drive as R-1 (Low-Density Residential) was also approved.
Following a public hearing, the board approved the second and final reading of an ordinance to formally abandon the former alley on new library property.
The board approved the first reading of an ordinance authorizing budget amendments to various funds of the City of Martin for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020.
In other board action, the board reappointed Janet Elliott and Colin Johnson to the Martin Housing Authority Commission for another five-year term.
The mayor noted there is a public hearing on all of the ordinances approved during Monday night’s meeting. Afterward, the council votes to either approve or reject these ordinances on second reading.
In announcements, Mayor Brundige stated the next informal city board meeting is July 7, 2020 and the regular city board meeting is July 13. Both meetings begin at 5:15 p.m. in the Martin City Courtroom or via Zoom.
BY DAVID FISHER