The Stephenville town council brought down a bit of a humdrum budget last Thursday, but it wasn’t without controversy.
That’s because two of the councillors felt taxpayers should have got a bit of a break with a modest decrease in the mill rate rather than holding it at the status quo with all the taxes and fees kept at the same level.
They both pointed out that Stephenville is in good financial shape and didn’t mind saying the town’s position didn’t get there by accident, but through a lot of hard work after recovering from a $13-million deficit back in 2005, according to Coun. Don Gibbon.
Coun. Mike Tobin outlined the fact that two loans will be retired, one in April 2018 and the other in March 2019, bringing the debt ratio down to zero by the time the second loan is paid off.
Coun. Mark Felix, chairman of the town’s finance committee, wants to proceed with caution and cited increases with garbage fees, energy costs and overall operating costs as some of the reasons for not decreasing the mill rate for 2018.
Felix had concerns that with a new property assessment due in 2018, it would be premature to adjust any rates at this point, saying the new council needs a full year to identify what the operating costs of the town are and ensuring they move toward cost saving.
He is leaning toward considering a tax reduction in 2019, pending the town’s assessment of property values set for next year.
Meanwhile, Mayor Tom Rose said the budget for 2018 will play a role in development and growth in the town, as community development goes hand-in-hand with business development. He issued a challenge to the finance chair and management to find savings in the town’s operations.
There were some good points made by all those involved in the budget debate, as council members who have been around for a long while certainly have the right to hope for a mill rate decrease considering the debt reduction they worked on for some time.
Felix, the new guy on the block, can’t be blamed for wanting to be cautious with his first budget and treading lightly and getting his bearings, and still not having any increases in taxes or fees.
Considering everything that was said, residents of the town will certainly look for a tax reduction in 2019.