Rathdrum council plans tax increase

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By BRIAN WALKER

Staff Writer

RATHDRUM — The Rathdrum City Council has proposed a 1.92 percent property tax hike and up to a 4.5 percent pay increase for employees for its fiscal 2018 budget.

The public hearing on the budget will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

"The main reasons for the tax increase will be for a new grader and tractor," City Administrator Leon Duce said.

Duce said the grader will cost $225,000 with a trade-in as the old grader is a 1995 model.

"The grader for public works helps with both road construction and snow plowing, so it's used year-round," Duce said.

A $25,000 tractor for the Parks Department will replace a 1972 model.

"We've used the older model as much as it can be used," Duce said.

Cities are allowed to take property tax increases of up to 3 percent under state law. Last year, for the first time in eight years, the council did not take a property tax increase. However, it used $85,000 in foregone taxes to offset the street light fee that was discontinued last October in lieu of funding lights as a tax through the general fund.

If approved, the 1.92 percent tax increase would generate about $40,000.

The budget proposal also includes a 2 percent cost of living allowance for employees that will cost $38,127 and up to a 2.5 percent merit hike that equates up to $47,659.

Monthly pay increases for the mayor ($1,150 to $1,550) and city council members ($600 to $808) are planned. The elected officials do not receive benefits as some cities of comparable size offer, Duce said.

A new full-time building official/inspector position, which will cost between $45,000 and $55,000 depending on experience, is proposed.

"We're doing way more inspections than we've ever done before and we still have only one inspector," Duce said.

Duce said the city has had one building official since 2007 when there were 89 residential permits issued. This year the number could reach about 180.

"We've doubled the workload for that inspector," he said.

Other budget priorities will be saving toward building the $2.2 million Greensferry lift station.

"The city has five lift stations and three of those are past the average useful life," Duce said. "The new lift station will be able to offset those and provide service to new areas for future growth."

The city also plans to purchase a $15,000 pickup for the new building inspector and complete a well along Highway 41.

Duce said city council meetings will be held twice a month starting in January. They are currently held once a month.

"We're finding that we have so much to cover that it would be better if we had two meetings a month," Duce said, adding that the dates of the meetings will be determined after November's election.

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