Slight levy decrease highlights city budget


Taxpayers in the city of Wayne won’t see much change in their annual tax bill, but there will be some major expenses the city will need to cover with their 2016-17 budget.
The Wayne City Council will meet next week to make final plans for their budget for the next fiscal year. The proposed budget is $35.67 million, a 3.4 percent increase over last year’s $34.44 million budget. With a 2.17 percent increase in land valuation of $208.7 million, the proposed tax levy will go down slightly, from 45.0295 cents per $100 of valuation to 44.9995, a drop of three hundredths of a cent.
City finance director Nancy Braden told The Wayne Herald that the Wayne City Council has tried to keep the levy in the 44-45 cent range, which allows the city to continue to receive state equalization funds. With this year’s budget, Braden said the city should receive about $433,000 in state equalization funds.
“The Council wants to try and keep the tax levy stable, and we’ve been right around 45 cents since 2008,” she said. “It’s kind of a double-edged sword, because if you don’t keep it at a certain level you can lose equalization funds, and that can be a problem. A $200,000 cut in the budget could mean losing $400,000 in revenue, so it’s really a numbers game and there aren’t any new revenues out there.”
While some of the recent major projects like the storm sewer treatment plant and the new swimming pool have been completed, or are nearing completion, the city has some major issues to tackle with their 2016-17 budget.
Among the biggest expenditures is the first phase of the city’s effort to bury existing overhead electrical lines in the downtown area. The $2 million project has already started with the completion of a study and the start of engineering work, with plans to move wiring in the downtown area underground.
The city’s electrical department also has a major equipment upgrade budgeted for this year, as a 40-year old transformer at the substation is in need of replacement. Braden said that cost will run close to $800,000.
The Wayne Police Department is also looking at a major equipment upgrade, as the city’s 911 system has been obsolete for more than two years and will be replaced with a modern system that incorporates digital and analog technology. The $192,000 requested by the police department will allow for text messaging, and the radio consoles will allow for communication along digital lines, used mainly by other law enforcement agencies like the Nebraska State Patrol; and analog channels that are in use within other city departments.
“Without the analog setup, dispatch wouldn’t be able to communicate with other departments in the city, and to replace those radios with an all-digital setup would cost more than $7,000 per radio,” Braden said. “This will give them the option to communicate more easily with local departments and the state patrol, which uses the digital system.”
In addition, the police department will add to its staff, hiring a seventh police officer and upgrading its dispatch staff from four full-timers and a part-time employee to five full-time employees. Police Chief Marlen Chinn was given the go-ahead by the Wayne City Council to hire the additional staff, Braden said.
Another major expense for the city will be insurance for the city employees. Braden said they are expecting a 10.5 percent increase in health insurance premiums for the coming year. Employees pay 30 percent of their health insurance premiums, and also pay the first $1,500 of their deductible and 20 percent of the remaining deductible up to $6,000, with the city picking up the other 80 percent.
Braden said the city will wait to see what operating costs come with the first full year of the new swimming pool in 2017, and they will also be looking at options to empty and decommission the old lagoon, as well as determining a plan of action for the old swimming pool.
The City Council will make a final decision on its budget at the Tuesday, Sept. 6 meeting at 5:30 p.m. in Council chambers.