By Courtney Price and Josh Carpenter
East Lincoln residents could see a tax increase next year if commissioners approve County Manager George Wood’s recommended budget.
While the property tax rate for the county will stay the same, at 59.8 cents per $100 assessed value, the tax applied to residents in the East Lincoln Water and Sewer District will rise from 1.99 cents to 3.55 cents per $100 value. The increase will be used to pay off the debt on the sewer system.
For the last four years, the county used savings set aside for the sewer system to avoid a tax rate increase, but Wood wrote in the proposed budget that those savings are now nearly spent. The county now has to raise the tax rate to pay that off.
Residents who live in the area covered by the East Lincoln Fire Department could also see a 1.05 cent increase, from 6.8 cents to 7.85 cents per $100.
The increase was built into the budget to pay for the second fire station that opened in October 2011. The East Lincoln station rented the space after the county realized that more than 300 properties in East Lincoln would see an insurance rate increase because they were more than five miles from a fire station. Opening the branch station eliminated that insurance increase but also adds additional costs in rent, utilities and staff.
However, county commissioners were concerned about the increase – a total of more than $230,000 – and want to meet with officials from the East Lincoln department to talk about its proposed budget before going forward.
“There’s a ton of people asking (me) what they’re doing with all that money,” commissioner Carl Robinson said at a Wednesday, May 23 budget retreat. “It seems like a lot.”
The Denver Fire Department rate will not change.
For a home with a tax value of $100,000, the East Lincoln Water and Sewer District rate change would create an increase of about $16 on next year’s tax bill, which last year would have been $19.90.
For that same home, the rate increase in the East Lincoln Fire district would also add about $10.50.
In terms of county-wide staffing, Wood recommended eliminating four positions, adding three positions and moving one part-time position to full-time. That does not include 24 teaching positions that will be lost in the school system after a federal stimulus grant expires this year.
Wood’s budget also proposed a 2.5 percent pay increase for all county employees, but commissioner George Arena was opposed to such a raise.
“I have a philosophical problem with that approach when we’re sitting here losing teachers,” Arena said. “I think we’d be throwing all that money in without discretion.”
The county commission will meet again following a June 4 public hearing on the budget.
The proposed budget also calls for:
• Increasing school spending by $158,080 to help cover the cost of increased healthcare and retirement costs.
• Holding off on the hospital renovation project until at least 2014.
• Funding the expansion to the East Lincoln Community Center on Optimist Club Road and developing the Rock Springs Park.