By Hub City Times staff
MARSHFIELD – Citing the need for more revenue, Marshfield aldermen are leaving the door open for a tax rate increase for next year. On June 26, the Common Council voted 7-3 in favor of setting a 2019 budget parameter which would direct city Administrator Steve Barg to develop next year’s spending plan with an increase in the tax rate close to or up to the maximum allowed under the state’s current levy limits.
“Last year, if we had done the full amount that the state would have allowed, we could have increased our tax rate by four percent,” Barg said. “Certainly, I am not advocating that – I didn’t last year, and I wouldn’t this year. I will tell you this – I am a fiscal conservative by nature, always have been – but, we have by embracing a new compensation plan , by setting out a fairly aggressive approach to what we would like to do in street repairs and maintenance; I mean, there are costs.
“We have left some money on the table in past years by having a flat tax rate for almost 10 years, which is part of what we have been catching up on a little bit the last few years. I mean, I will try to carve out every dollar that I can to try to pare it back, but there are some pressures growing. Some of it has been because of the increases over the past 12-13 years have been collectively minimal; (it) probably made a lot of our residents happy and yet now, it makes it a little bit more difficult to balance.”
Barg noted there have been minimal increases in the city’s budget in each of the last five years, for a total tax increase of 2.8 percent – which he said is not keeping up with everything the city needs or wants to do.
Alderman Steve Mac Swain argued for the biggest allowable tax increase to get the city caught up on roads and other projects.
“You are not going to have bathrooms; you are not going to have a pool,” he said. “You might as well quit have any discussions about that stuff; you might as well talk about what would happen if you win the lottery, if we are not willing to raise taxes.
“If we are not willing to take the bite as politicians, then we can never go to anyone and ask for a referendum for anything. We won’t have any credibility. If we want to show people that we are positive about our city. We are investing in the city when we are spending money on it…”
Rebecca Spiros was one of three Council members to vote against allowing for the possible tax hike. She said it would be putting a bigger burden on a smaller number of property owners, as more and more people choose to rent or live outside the city.
“You’ve got people that rent, and rent, and rent, and rent, and stay renting, or you have executives of your companies or physicians of your hospital that move just out of the city limits,” she said, “and don’t pay a thing – that is my concern. People who live here are an aging population; they’ve owned their homes for years, and they continue to accept the responsibility for everything, while we have all of these people who come here. How much does our traffic increase during the day? They come here; they drive on our roads; they use our facilities; and they don’t pay a stinking dime.”
Aldermen Tom Witzel and Jason Zaleski joined Spiros in voting against leaving the door open to a possible tax increase.
The state allows municipalities to capture the value of new construction or higher equalized values through increases in local property tax rates. From roughly 2004-2013, Marshfield’s tax rate has essentially held steady. The city has implemented increases of less than 1 percent in each of the past five years.