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Monroe’s budget takes no tax increase

MONROE — Taxpayers won’t see an increase to property taxes if the mayor’s proposed budget for 2020 is approved. 
The top strategic priorities, as defined by Mayor Geoffrey Thomas’ letter to the council, include good government, safety, building community, managing growth, economic development, improvement to utilities and transportation. 
“The recommended budget fully funds our reserve accounts and prepares for a slow‐down in the regional economy,” Thomas wrote. 
The proposed budget assumes 110  single  family  residential  home  permits and  a  1.26 percent  growth in population related revenues, such as sales and utility taxes, Thomas wrote. It includes funding for new positions in human resources and finance, code  enforcement,  and  public works, Thomas wrote.   
His budget plan includes adding surveillance cameras in parks, $100,000 set aside as a placeholder for recommendations being developed to address homelessness, continuing to fund a part-time embedded social worker position who works with police officers and adding a new full time city code enforcement officer.
The city could increase property taxes up to 1 percent, but they’re not planning on doing that. 
“I-747 was the catalyst” for limiting taxes to 1 percent rather than the 6 percent that government could raise to beforehand, said city finance director Becky Hasart. The measure, passed by a majority vote in 2001. It was ruled unconsitutitional seven years later, but was enacted nonetheless. 
The “City of Monroe historically chooses not to take the 1 percent anyway,” Hasart said.
The budget will take effect on Jan. 1, and the county collects property taxes for the city, she said. 
The proposal was presented to the City Council on Sept. 24, Hasart said, one month ahead of what state statute requires. The intent of Mayor Thomas in that early presentation was to give the council a full month to digest the recommendations and offer changes. 
Public hearings were held on Oct. 8 and Oct. 16, she said. One day prior to the second public hearing, the city had a budget workshop. Public comment is always welcome, but the plan by the city will complete the second reading on Nov. 12. Only two hearings are required.
Often no one shows up for public comment, except during the last recession when a lot of hard decisions were being made, she said. 



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