Havre Daily News
Under a preliminary budget approved by the Havre City Council Tuesday, city property owners would see an increase of taxes to raise more than $62,000 in new revenue.
The increase would amount to about $25 for a home valued at $100,000.
As part of that tax increase, the city is considering a 2-mill increase in the permissive medical levy to cover higher health insurance premiums for its employees.
The city was looking at a 15 percent increase in its health insurance costs over the next year, city finance director Lowell Swenson said Wednesday. That increase was reduced to 10 percent through a tentative agreement with city employees.
An ad hoc employees committee has agreed to a proposal to increase deductibles and charge workers a $75 copayment for emergency room visits, Havre police Lt. Russ Ostwalt said today. Ostwalt serves on the committee, which is made up of union and nonunion employees. He said the agreement must still be approved by the City Council.
The 10 percent increase will be covered by the higher permissive medical levy.
City residents will have the opportunity to voice their opinions about the budget and the medical levy increase at public hearings on Monday and Wednesday. The meetings are slated for 7 p.m. at City Hall, and the City Council is set to approve the final budget at the Wednesday meeting.
The city is allowed to raise tax rates from year to year based on inflation, Swenson said. Otherwise, the rate is capped, and Havre has been operating at that ceiling for several years.
"We're keeping it at the cap," Swenson said. "It's the only way we can meet budget. We can only generate so much in tax revenue."
Swenson said comprehensive insurance costs, which include liability, property and auto insurance, are dropping for the coming year from about $135,000 to about $113,000
Workers' compensation insurance costs increased by 40 percent, Swenson said. The increase is due to a raise in the base rate and several large claims for city employees over the last several years, he said.
Also on the rise were natural gas costs, which went up 25 percent, he said. The city has also budgeted for increases in fuel costs for departments that operate vehicles.
Havre Mayor Bob Rice said Tuesday that the city will continue energy conservation efforts to try to keep costs down. A solar panel was installed at the city shop in the spring, and the city is asking its employees to turn lights off in empty rooms and not keep their vehicles running when they are not occupied.