Independence to see 3.63% budget hike

The Independence City Council Tuesday, Dec. 11, approved a final General Fund budget for 2013 of $2,187,672 — up by $76,687 from the 2012 General Fund budget of $2,110,985. This is a 3.63 percent increase.

Mayor Marvin Johnson said he was pleased that Independence was able to keep its budget relatively flat. However, he added that the city might have cut its budget for 2012 “a little too much.”

After the meeting, he explained his comment on the 2012 budget. The General Fund budget pays for the city’s operating costs and most of Independence’s General Fund revenue comes from property taxes. However, money from taxes does not come in until mid year. So auditors routinely recommend that cities have on hand at the end of each year enough money to cover operating expenses for the first half of the year.

When the City Council finalized its 2012 General Fund budget, councilors deliberately kept it lean because of tough economic times, Johnson said. As a result, Independence dipped into its reserves slightly towards the end of the year. Fortunately, the city still had on hand at the end of the year the amount of operating money recommended by auditors.

Mayor Johnson said that Independence cannot keep dipping into its reserves, because at some point the city will really need them.

City Administrator Toni Hirsch said the preliminary General Fund budget approved by the City Council for 2013 originally called for a 4.61 percent budget increase over 2012. Following the council’s direction, she reduced the budget increase to 3.63 percent. Her budget cuts affected all city departments, but she took the most money from the budget for road materials.

Independence’s final General Fund property tax levy for 2013 is $1,938,794, down by $3,234 (.02 percent) from the $1,942,028 General Fund levy for 2012. The city also is paying debt service on bonds sold in 2006, 2007 and 2010. The General Fund levy and debt service levy together add up to a total property tax levy of $2,384,882.

County assessors reported that properties in Independence had an estimated total market value of $596,237,000 in 2012, down by one percent. This property value decrease affected Independence’s property tax levy for 2013, because the city still needs to cover operating costs with taxes paid by property owners.

Owners of homesteaded residential properties in Independence are likely to see a .2 percent increase in their city property taxes for 2013, if their property values remain the same as the previous year.

The largest amount of General Fund money in 2013 will be spent on police protection — $843,724. General government expenses are expected to amount to $452,377. Another $321,616 will go towards fire protection, and $290,750 will go towards public works.