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Franklin swaps budget proposals after mayor's veto

Taylor voices concern over fire and police 'safety' cuts, and favors fee

Nov. 29, 2011

Franklin - Mayor Tom Taylor's veto of the city's 2012 budget was sustained Tuesday night.

At a special Common Council meeting, members came up with the four votes needed to uphold the veto. Alderman Steve Taylor voted against it; Alderman Kristen Wilhelm was excused.

Then, in another about-face, the council voted 3-2 to adopt Taylor's recommended budget, abandoning one prepared by the Finance Committee and adopted on Nov. 15. Aldermen Taylor and Steve Olson voted against that plan.

The mayor vetoed the Finance Committee budget because it called for cuts to the Fire and Police departments, cuts he said would "jeopardize public safety." Both departments, Taylor had said, would have had to cut personnel, and Fire Chief James Martins warned that Fire Station No. 2, on South 60th Street near the industrial park, would have to be periodically closed.

Instead, the mayor proposed that a building inspector and city planner position be eliminated, as they were not "essential" since development had slowed considerably.

But the crux of the debate Tuesday was over Taylor's plan to charge residents a $104 annual fee for garbage collection. That change to the budget would bring in close to $80,000.

He said neighboring communities were going that route, and that a fee system was fairer, because condo residents and businesses pay property taxes as well as waste collection services.

"This council is faced with a controversial issue that challenges the status quo," Taylor said.

Failing to find new revenue streams and increasing the tax levy and rate means the city could lose state funding - $300,000 to $400,000 - in the future, said Cal Patterson, the city's director of finance, who backed the mayor's budget.

The mayor used the state-imposed levy limit caps to bolster his case. The budget he proposed reduced the tax rate and levy.

Council members who voted against the mayor's budget, however, said constituents did not have enough time to consider the waste-collection fee and provide input.

"The reason I don't support it is because this garbage issue needs to be debated," said Alderman Taylor.

Alderman Tim Solomon, meanwhile, said if the city failed to rein in taxes and lost upward of $300,000 in state aid, the impact on taxes would be too great.

"We cannot afford to put that money in jeopardy," he said. "If you put it on the tax rolls, it would be a 5 percent increase. If we don't get any growth, that's going to come out of salaries. So it really needs to go on as a fee."

The new budget is a $46.7 million spending package, up 24 percent from this year's $37.6 million budget.

However, the 2012 tax rate and levy decreased under the new budget. The $20.5 million levy is a 2.4 percent reduction from this year's $21 million; the tax rate dropped from $6.23 to $5.79 per $1,000 of assessed value, a 7 percent decline.

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