Budget, tax rate will fall

The Ashland Citizens Budget Committee took forecasts of future budget problems seriously and kept a tight lid on spending.

The City of Ashland budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, is $100.6 million.

Earlier this week, the budget committee authorized a budget of $92 million for the coming fiscal year.

City property taxes will fall slightly, down from $5.56 per $1,000 of assessed property value this fiscal year to $5.53 per $1,000 of assessed value. The owner of a home assessed at $250,000 will pay about $1,382 in city property taxes.

That amount includes money for the parks system and the voter-approved Youth Activities Levy.

Long range forecasts show that increases in spending will outpace growth in revenue sources unless changes are made.

The budget committee &

made up of the entire Ashland City Council and seven volunteer residents &

added one penny per $1,000 of assessed value to the new tax rate to raise $17,800 for summer reading programs based in Ashland School District schools.

The Ashland Public Library closed April 6 as part of a Jackson County-wide shut-down of the library system.

City voters will choose in September whether to approve a 58 cents per $1,000 in assessed value increase in property taxes to reopen the Ashland Public Library. The two year levy would cost $145 per year for the owner of a home assessed at $250,000. Assessed values are usually lower than market values.

The Community Development Department, Ashland Fire Rescue and Ashland Police Department were hardest hit by budget cuts for the coming fiscal year.

The budget committee refused to restore most cut items, and also turned down most city department requests for new spending.

However, at the last minute the committee did add $80,000 in planning services so the city could create development plans for large tracts of land near the railroad tracks and on the former Croman Mill site.

The planning will be paid for with a 4.5 cents per $1,000 in assessed value increase in property taxes.

Developing that land could bring in added revenues from planning and building fees, and would also generate money from new property taxes.

"Long range planning is really important and we need to invest in our community," Ashland City Councilor Eric Navickas said.

The city took an $800,000 budget hit for the coming fiscal year due to a slowdown in construction activity and drop in development fees.

This spring's budget marks a departure from previous years, when budget committees were willing to allow more added spending.

Last year, the committee approved a number of additions including $100,000 for a community visioning process to outline goals for Ashland's future.

The city council and city staff failed to start that process and the money was never spent. The budget committee did not approve money for community visioning in the next fiscal year, killing the project.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.

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