Medina village budget ‘very demoralizing’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 April 2013 at 12:00 am

Mayor says village faces rising costs, shrinking assessments

MEDINA – Village property owners can expect a jolt to their tax bills for the 2013-14 fiscal year that begins June 1.

The tax rate could jump from $15.81 per $1,000 of assessed property to $17, a 7.5 percent increase, Mayor Andrew Meier said after tonight’s board meeting.

“It’s very demoralizing,” he said. “There’s no money anywhere.”

Medina’s village-wide assessment shrunk about $800,000, down to $165 million. Costs are up with rising contributions to the retirement system, health insurance and workers’ compensation. And revenues are down. The rising costs and declining revenues represent about a $300,000 swing from 2012-13.

Meier said fixed costs – employee benefits and wages – give the village little leeway to make reductions. That’s the same with fuel and many other operational expenses, he said.

Some municipalities with growing tax bases can hold their tax rates steady because bigger assessments sometimes keep pace with tax growth. But in Medina, the assessments are going down village-wide.

Meier believes the village tax rate is driving the decline in the values and assessments of village properties. Just moving across the village line into the towns of Shelby or Ridgeway can slash $12 off the overall tax rate for a property owner, saving a property owner with an $85,000 home about $1,000 a year in taxes.

Meier has been pushing to dissolve the village, believing that would create a tax structure that is more equal for village and town residents, rather than the current disparity. The village has received a state grant to study the dissolution. Meier wants to bring the issue to a public referendum. That could be two years away.

“There are inherent, built-in structural problems with how we provide services and split up how we pay for them,” he said. “It uniquely burdens the village.”

Meier wanted to hire a village coordinator to work on the study and help manage the village government, which has about 50 employees and a $4.5 million annual budget.

But he said that position is unlikely given the village’s financial situation for 2013-14.

“The Village Board needs to decide whether it will budget for it,” Meier said. “If we don’t budget for it, then it won’t be there, unless some other money turns up and I don’t think it will.”

Right now, the budget doesn’t include a village coordinator, a position that could pay $70,000 a year.

The Village Board and department heads are working to finalize the budget for a 7 p.m. vote on Monday at the Shelby Town Hall.

Meier worries the 2014-15 could be even more difficult for village property owners. A new reassessment dropped the village values another 5 percent, but those numbers don’t take effect until the 2014-15 budget. The shrinking tax base will put more pressure on the tax rate.

“The grim reality is we haven’t even taking the hit on the new assessments,” Meier said. “That’s next year.”