In the first of what is sure to be several public budget talks, the Twin Falls City Council didn’t challenge a possible higher property tax rate in the city on Monday night — though the matter shouldn’t be considered forgone either.
Several council members lauded City Manager Travis Rothweiler for his first preliminary budget as leader of day-to-day operations for the city. But in almost the same breath, they added that there would probably be debate over a possible tax rate increase of 4 percent compared to this year.
Even Rothweiler qualified his projection of $7.20-per-$1,000 of taxable value as possibly “far too pessimistic.” The rate is based on the community’s total assessed value — which has not been finalized — and the city’s budget — which is slightly lower than it was last year. From that, the tax rate is determined.
“It may be the case that we’re left whole,” Rothweiler said. “And if it’s left whole, that means the tax rate information is completely wrong.”
The total property taxes paid by property owners also largely depend on what the county assessor deems as the value of the property, Rothweiler said.
But at least some of that money will go toward increased funding for a constant hot-button in Twin Falls: Road maintenance. The budget proposal by Rothweiler calls for an extra $200,000 in the streets budget for a total $750,000 — an amount that steps toward where officials say it needs to be, but is still almost 50 percent below need.
Rothweiler said the city should aim to spend $1.3 million a year on street maintenance so it won’t be scraping for cash when a road needs to be resurfaced and to ensure surprise maintenance doesn’t come at the expense of the routine.
City Engineer Jackie Fields said the $1.3 million is too high of a number to ask for now, but believes the council is committed enough to road quality to seriously consider this year’s request. For her, the question is if her request will hold up to the yearly balancing act of meeting the city’s needs without breaking citizens’ banks.