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City of Worthington sets its not-to-exceed levy increase at 4 percent

Worthington City Hall (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington City Council set its not-to-exceed tax levy increase at 4 percent early Wednesday, but the budgeting process is not yet over.

Four percent, or $100,000, is now the maximum amount by which the city can increase its tax levy. Taxes from new construction mean a 1.4 percent increase in the levy wouldn't affect existing taxpayers' property tax bills. The impact of the 4 percent increase would translate to a 2.6 percent increase for taxpayers.

Council members must submit the final 2011 levy to the state by late December.

"Where's our comfort zone?" Alderman Ron Wood asked repeatedly throughout the discussion. "We've got to set a percentage we're comfortable with and build backward."

In the end, the council did just that, using a starting levy amount of $2.87 million and listing possible reductions from there -- chief among them reductions in funding reserved for future replacements.

Council had originally planned to funnel $120,000 yearly into a maintenance fund for the City of Worthington Aquatic Center; that number was reduced to $100,000. Decreasing contributions to the capital overlay fund will net the city another $50,000 off the starting figure.

That figure already includes a 10 percent across-the-board reduction in each department's Equipment Replacement Schedule, a recent council suggestion that would slice $29,000 off the tax levy.

"When expenditures come forth, we tend to be frugal, and it's just not translated into the budget unless we decrease the ERS," said Alderman Mike Woll, referring to funds set aside annually to replace equipment like snowplow blades or police squad cars.

The $2.87 million also accounts for a $190,000 reduction being offset by the council-established street lighting utility, which should begin appearing on residents' utility bills this fall.

Additionally, the figure could be reduced $20,000 if each department took a 1 percent cut to its budget.

The amount of taxes the city owes on the Bioscience incubator also has been lowered by $15,000.

In all, the total levy was reduced to $2.77 million.