Mayor Roger Steele made sense in advocating against raising the city’s mill levy for property taxes due to a revenue shortfall created by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our goal was always to protect the people of the city,” Steele said at Tuesday’s Grand Island City Council meeting. “We’re still motivated by the view that we have to do everything possible to alleviate hardships in their lives.”
The council got some good news from Finance Director Patrick Brown, who reported that the budget shortfall is less than originally expected.
Brown said the city’s sales tax didn’t take a big hit, since so many Grand Island businesses and industries are based on essential services, including the hospital and food processing plants. They had projected a 15% decrease, but it has been adjusted to 11%.
The city also has been keeping a tight rein on its spending, cutting expenses and not filling open positions, along with a reduction in spending on Grand Island Public Library staffing.
It will ultimately be the City Council’s decision to make on what to do with the mill levy, but Brown is also recommending keeping it the same. He also advised that the city not transfer $250,000 in Keno funds to the general fund as had been discussed.
Currently, Brown projects that the city’s 2020-21 revenue will be down $576,000, for a total of $38.6 million.
The city has done a good job of riding out what will ultimately be a temporary economic hit. The situation is still serious, but the council needs to do everything it can to maintain all city services to its residents and prevent additional taxation at a difficult economic time for everyone. It can maintain confidence that once we get through the pandemic, the economy will bounce back and so will the city’s revenue.
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