City of Beatrice new budget would lower property tax rate

BEATRICE – The City of Beatrice property tax rate would decrease under the new biennial budget being proposed. A public hearing was held Monday night on the two-year plan, which proposes total spending of $56.95 million the first year, and $48.84 million in year two.

"A decrease in your tax levy of just over two percent...and in FY 23, a decrease in your tax levy of another seven percent."

City Administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer says the city will be able to use CARES Act funding for some public safety purchases that would normally be funded through a public safety debt levy, affecting property taxes. On utility rates, there would be no electric rate increase for the next two years, but Tempelmeyer says small water and sewer rate hikes would be instituted in the next couple of years. Water rates would go up ten cents per thousand gallons used.

"If your a normal, average residential consumer, you'll see an increase of 48-cents per month on your bill. Now, if you water your lawn, you'll see a bigger increase."

A 25-cent sewer rate hike will be instituted for each of the next two years, as the city handles major upgrades in its system. That amounts to about 67-cents more per month, for the typical user.  In the new MARS sanitation system, no rate increase is anticipated in the first year, but a two-dollar increase is under consideration in the second year.

"When we took over in April (the garbage service), we kept the rates the same. We're not asking for a rate increase in FY ' in FY '23 we're going to need to increase the rates, either on the landfill side, the hauler side, or both. You haven't seen a rate increase for a couple of years there. Normally, people are use to an increase every year, on one side or the other."

There was little public input on the budget, with the exception of the areas of funding demolition of dilapidated properties, and a Main Street Beatrice request for $30,000 in each of the next two budget years.

The city is proposing $80,000 for each of the next two years for addressing run—down properties. Councilman Rick Kerr would like to see that figure go higher.
"We've got a bunch of junk houses we've got to get torn down. They come to me, and well, we're out of money this year and we'll have to wait til next year...if it was up to me, I put some extra money in there, but you guys take a look at it. Because, I'd like to see as many of them come down, as we can."

On the Main Street request, the city already budgets about $20,000 for marketing purposes, but the organization’s Executive Director, Michael Sothan says the business group wants to step up attention on building issues.

"Some of the things we are asking for here are some of those more intangible things we need to build more capacity for. This isn't just the flowers, or the benches...we're trying to really focus more on the economic development and work with our local entrepreneurs, our local business owners and try to be able to make a difference. To be able to spend more time and energy in those areas, especially after the pandemic and ongoing property issues we've had....this is an area we just strongly feel is needing more attention."  Tempelmeyer says part of the Main Street funding request, however, doesn’t meet the requirements under state law for the type of activity the city can fund.

The City will be undertaking or planning for some major capital improvements in the upcoming two-year budget cycle.
One is electrical substation work near the Beatrice State Developmental Center, for about $745,000. Many of the largest projects undertaken by the city or public works departments have been paid for in cash, because of steps taken to building a large enough cash reserve. This past year, the city’s electric department was hit by a $1.5 million reduction to its reserves because of the rolling blackouts experience during a brutal cold snap. Officials are rebuilding that reserve.

The city’s water department will be making use of a $7.5 million state loan at no interest cost, to undertake major water system improvements. About $5.25 million of that loan amount is committed for the next two years. A recent de-watering upgrade at the city’s wastewater plant was paid for with cash, not debt.
Another major project is a $575,000 sewer bypass from the Gage County Industrial Park.

Motorists will be seeing significant street department work in the coming years, resurfacing 11th Street in the first year of the new biennial budget proposal.
In design is a major improvement on Lincoln Street from 5th Street to 19th.  A project on 13th Street from Beaver to Oak Street for about $518,000 is on the drawing board for the second year of the new biennial budget.

The Nebraska Department of Transportation has scheduled a resurfacing of U.S. Highway 136, or Court Street……from 2nd to 21st….a project that for the moment, does not require a city share of funding.

The new biennial budget of the city will be considered for approval at a meeting, on September 7th.