KEARNEY — The owner of a house valued at $200,000 will pay the same property tax to the city of Kearney as last year: $298.
That’s according to Wendell Wessels, the city’s director of finance, who reviewed the high points of the city’s fiscal plan for 2020-21 when the Kearney City Council met Tuesday.
The city’s property tax levy will be 14.89 — the same as 2019-20.
At $99.5 million, the city’s budget for 2020-21 is the largest in Kearney’s history.
The budget includes several large street projects that were put on hold when the coronavirus pandemic hit last spring. Uncertain how city revenues might be affected by the pandemic, city leaders in March decided to delay the street projects and freeze salaries. Negative effects of business lockdowns were apparent in the city’s sales tax collections, which dropped sharply in March and April; however, they have rebounded to 2019-20 levels.
The delayed street projects — repaving 11 blocks of Avenue N, repairing the skeleton of the Second Avenue overpass and repaving a six-block stretch of 31st Street in central Kearney — account for nearly $5 million. In addition to shelving the three street projects, city leaders froze wages for a $600,000 savings.
While the city will pay the tab for the three major street projects in 2020-21, government grants and donations will pay the majority of the cost for several other large capital expenses.
Donors and a grant are paying most of the cost for an $8.8 million indoor tennis facility near the University of Nebraska at Kearney. And, the city will utilize outside funds from the Federal Aviation Administration for taxiway improvements and a terminal expansion at Kearney Regional Airport. Together, those projects will cost $11.6 million.
The city’s property valuation — tax base — grew by 2.38% to $2.9 billion this year. Coupled with the levy of 14.98 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, the tax base will produce property tax revenues of $4.3 million in 2020-21.
Property taxes are the city’s second largest source of tax revenues. Sales taxes are first. The 1.5% municipal sales tax is expected to generate $12 million or more in 2020-21, making it the city’s largest source of tax revenues.
As long as the wage freeze is in effect, there will be no increase in personnel expenses for the city’s 272 full-time and 44 part-time employees, which will be $27.4 million. Wessels said there will be one additional full-time and three additional part-time employees on the payroll in 2020-21.
STRONG START FOR SALES TAX, AND THEN CORONAVIRUS HITS
Local businesses collect Kearney’s 1.5 percent sales tax and send it to the Nebraska Department of Revenue. Two months usually pass before sales tax revenues reach City Hall. Collections in March and April reflect the significant effect the pandemic had on business in Kearney when the pandemic arrived. The city of Kearney’s fiscal year runs Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.
|Collected||Amount||% B(W)T ‘19||Received by City|
|* Projected based on 2019 actual|
|** Projected based on 2019 and 2020 actuals|
The top 10 most expensive projects on the City of Kearney's 2020-21 budget
1. Tennis Facility — $8.8 million
2. Taxiway — $7.1 million
3. Airport — $4.5 million
4. Avenue N — $2.73 million
5. Second Avenue Overpass — $1.64 million
6. Wastewater Plant — $1.42 million
7. Property Development — $1.2 million
8. Airport Hangars — $800,000
9. 31st Street, Avenues D to G — $590,000
10. Stormwater Plans — $580,000
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