Nome Common Council sets millage rate at 10 mills
The Nome Common Council voted Monday evening to pull down last year’s 11-mill property tax rate to 10 mills for next year’s budget.
Goodie! That means a drop in property tax? Not necessarily, as last year one mill equaled around $288,000, whereas an increase in the assessor’s valuation of property has raised the value of a mill to about $317,335 for FY 2018.
The mill rate, also referred to as the millage rate, is a figure representing the amount per $1,000 of the assessed value of property, which is used to calculate the amount of property tax. Ten mills, therefore equals $10 for every $1,000 of assessed value.
“Somewhere down the road, it’s going to go back up,” Councilman Stan Andersen said of the one-mill drop.
Using multiple guidelines on assessing property values, Arne Erickson, state assessor earlier this year found that valuation of Nome’s real property had increased about 11 to 12 percent over the past three years or so. The combination of a drop of one mill plus higher property assessment may result in property tax bills a tad higher this year.
Julie Liew, the City’s finance director, told the Council that overall revenue is projected at $11,275,341, a decrease of $1,385,593.74 or 11 percent from 2017. Liew projected a deficit of $991,941which would be taken out of savings or the fund balance to balance the general fund budget at $12,267,282. Personnel costs, an increased budget request from Nome Public Schools and capital expenditure requests have helped produce the shortfall. State revenues are projected to drop; sales tax predicted to drop by 2 percent. Additionally, a drop in rental revenue will stem from sale of the daycare facility to Kawerak, Inc.
After setting the mill rate, the Council voted into first reading the ordinances on seven City of Nome budget measures:
General Fund Municipal Budget $12,267,282 (down 3 percent from last year); School Debt Service Fund Budget, $557,952; Special Revenue Fund Budget, $231,588; Capital Projects Fund Budget, $430,000; Construction Capital Projects Fund Budget, $0.00; City of Nome Port of Nome Fund Budget, $1,595,545; City of Nome Port of Nome Capital Projects Fund Budget, $7,096,869.
The State of Alaska Constitution directs the legislature to maintain a system of schools open to all children of the state. The state has passed some of the mandated responsibility to local municipalities with taxing authority.
At Monday’s regular meeting the Council unanimously passed a resolution that the Council would provide the 2.65 mill state mandate of $1,133,947, and fund an additional contribution of $1,366,053, for a total contribution of $2.5 million.
The City had to increase the contribution to help Nome Public Schools make up for state funding shortfall and a shrinking student enrollment. The school budget aims at $19,782 per student, cut back from around $21,000, along with staff and curriculum cuts.
The schools may, but not likely, receive more than expected from Legislature when the fur has quit flying in the current special session. However, no one will know until the end of June. Meanwhile, the City must determine its contribution by May 31of the budget year. Therefore, the City would not receive a refund were the Legislature decide to dig a little deeper.
Lisa Leeper, principal and lead teacher at Anvil Science Academy, assured the Council that the schools would not be thinking up things on which to spend additional state money, but would use it to restore services and personnel cut out of the budget.
Snow and ice removal
The Council bid farewell for now to amending City law to require owners of property adjacent to sidewalks to remove ice as well as snow from walkways. Having property owners clean winter hazards from state-owned sidewalks has not found resounding approval around the Council table. The current law specifies snow; the revised measure would add “ice.”
Councilman Andersen reflected that in the good ole days, the sidewalk clearing involved only Front Street and up Bering Street to Safeway. A thought to repeal the law and make the state take over did not fly as the City’s attorney advised that the state did not have to do this. Councilman Tom Sparks recommended Council turn the issue over to the Nome Planning Commission.
In other business, the Council:
• Heard Lizzy Hahn, during Citizen’s Comments, observe that as she does her homework at the Nome Nugget office on Front Street she witnesses “drunk people fighting and screaming and use very bad words.” She suggested that the City have a list and restrict alcohol for repeat offenders.
• Proclaimed June 10 Lemonade Day in Nome.
• Approved a renewal application by Geo Care, Inc. for a correctional facility permit within City of Nome.
• Approved adding a definition of junk vehicles to the Title 18 Zoning Law: “Junk motor vehicle” means a discarded, dismantled, wrecked, scrapped or mined motor vehicle or parts thereof, an unregistered motorhome not connected to water and/or sewer, or a vehicle other than an on-premises utility vehicle, which is allowed to remain unregistered for a period of 30 days from the date of discovery.”
Mayor Richard Beneville and the Council decided not to name sole applicant Ronald S. Lemmons to a vacancy on the Nome Port Commission due to an incomplete application. The City will advertise and select from more applicants and reconsider a completed application from Lemmons.