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Tax increase a possibility for Winona
by Amanda Sexton Ferguson, Editor and Publisher
Aug 21, 2014 | 156 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WINONA – The Winona Board of Aldermen is mulling over a proposed budget for fiscal year 2015.

At Tuesday night’s regular meeting, City Clerk June Williams presented the board with a proposed budget that includes every expense increase requested by department heads. The board scheduled a budget workshop for Monday, August 25 at 4:30 p.m. to go through the proposed budget together, line by line. As they do each year, all expense increases will be weighed and decided on by the board before finalizing a new budget.

In its proposed form, the budget estimates city expenses to equal $3,231,259, an increase of $2,752 from last year. This also includes a millage increase of 3.4 mills, or $74,983. However, even with a millage increase, Williams said the board will need to cut $250,000 in expenses.

“Over the last few years, expenses have been increasing, but revenue and taxes have stayed the same,” Williams said. “The city has not raised the millage rate [90 mills total including the millage appropriation for the Winona Separate School District] in three years.”

Williams said in addition to increases in utility and fuel, the city’s health insurance increased significantly last January due to mandates of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. On January 1, the city’s health insurance premium increased $66.78 per month per employee, an increase city leaders did not foresee when creating the FY2014 budget.

With the emergency repairs on the city’s water and sewer systems in recent months, future repairs to the city’s aging infrastructure is of concern as well.

Williams said even with the increase in expenses this current year, the city is still in good shape with six weeks left in the budget year.

“There is no deficit in the current budget, but we have no extra money to spend,” Williams said. “Things are always tight this close to [a new budget year].”

As for revenue in the proposed budget, Williams said the city’s value has increased $261,014 from last year, showing a total of $22,450,353 net assessed value. The value of one mill is $22,504.

Williams said sale tax revenues are projected to be $1.04 million for FY2015.

“We have budgeted $1.04 million for sales tax the last few years,” Williams said. “We may be $15,000 [short of that projection] for this year.”

For FY2015, the Winona Separate School District is requesting four-tenths of a mill less than last year.

In other city business:

• The board voted to give a 30 day extension to the owners of property located at 24 Old Highway 82 to get the property cleaned up and made safe. At the end of the 30 days, if property owners do not comply, the city will clean up the property and assess the cost to the property owners.

• The board voted to begin cleanup efforts on the property located at 205 Summit Street.

• Shirley Franks and Mac Arthur Hammond requested the city memorialize the contribution of Sam Glover to the people of Winona by designating Alice Lane the Sam Glover Memorial Street. The board voted 4-0 in approval of the designation, behind an Alderman Kelvin Winbush motion. Alderman David Ware was absent.

• Board attorney Ray Baum recommended the city enter into a second contract with C-Spire to install a microwave box at the base of the water tower located on Simpson Drive. Baum said the city has been paid $10,000 from C-Spire by allowing a cellular antennae to be placed on top of the tower, and the new agreement states C-Spire will pay an additional $200 monthly for the microwave box.

• Code enforcement officer James “Smitty” Smith informed the board that he had met with a representative with Grenada Railway about tall grass and abandoned buildings located on railroad property around Winona. Smith said the company is sending crews to clean up the property, completing the work in approximately two weeks.

• Smith asked the board to begin condemnation proceedings on property located at 206 North Union, 106 South Union, property located on Keyneck Lane in downtown Winona, and the former Snyder’s Department Store building.

• The board set the delinquent tax sale for Monday, August 25, 2014, at 10 a.m. at the Montgomery County Courthouse.

• The board declined to close College Street the night of October 31 for a proposed Halloween Block Party. With a home football game at Winona High School, Chief Johnny Hargrove and the board did not feel closing the street would be safe that evening.

• Mayor Jerry Flowers said the city is working with the Montgomery County Diabetes Coalition and several local ministers in possibly renovating the basketball court and improving the park area at the Winona Community Center on Powell Street. Flowers said the group has suggested re-doing the basketball court and adding playground equipment at the center.

“We want to try to make it nicer for the kids,” Flowers said.

Flowers explained that the Coalition and volunteers will submit a proposal for the city’s assistance on the improvements.

• The board approved the appointment of four new members to the Winona Historic Commission, as suggested by Flowers. Sue Stidham, Chuck Carollo, Jackie Matthews, and Aaron Dees were appointed unanimously.

“They all have a vested interest in the historical district,” Flowers said.

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