County reduces tax increase

By Maura Wery

The Riley County Commission completed a budget work session Monday that led to lowering the proposed property tax increase from 3.1 mills to 2.7 mills. But those proposed reductions came at a price: reductions in requested funding for several outside organizations.

The net result is a proposed 2014 levy of 38.127 mills, down from the 38.527 mills commissioners had been looking at. The current-year levy is 35.427 mills.

For the owner of a $180,000 house, which would have increased about $5,000 in value since last year, Thursday’s actions translate to a proposed $789 county property tax bill. That’s $9 less than the same homeowner would have paid had commissioners not imposed the changes they made Thursday, but it’s still up $76 from this year’s $713 bill.

Overall, commissioners are proposing to spend $30.858 million in 2014, a 7.7 percent increase from the current-year budget of $28.648 million.

Almost half of the proposed increase, about 1.276 mills, is intended to fund operations at the Riley County Health Department. Commissioners did not alter that proposed increase Monday.

They did, however, reduce the proposed Urban Area Planning line item from $100,000 to $70,000. The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce line item was lowered from $60,000 to $55,000, the T Russell Reitz Animal Shelter line item was reduced from $65,000 to $60,000 and the proposed transfer of $1.5 million from the general fund to the CIP fund was reduced to $1.25 million.

The commission did not reduce proposed appropriations for veteran affairs, Downtown Manhattan and Pawnee Mental Health, although any of those things could still happen.Commissioners commented that they wanted to keep the levy lower, but it might do more harm than good.

“A lower mill looks good on paper but it’s not good for the county,” commissioner Ron Wells said. Commissioner Dave Lewis agreed with Wells, saying a lower levy is “not good for the long term.”

The county’s next work session will be July 8. Commissioners hope to finalize the budget by July 15.

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