Krista Corner Havre Daily News email@example.com
Property tax bills may rise to help fund the city's infrastructure portion of the First Street Project. Haver residents' property taxes include a storm-sewer surcharge, which was a main topic of city council's regular meeting Monday. The Havre City Council passed the first reading of Ordinances 860 and 861 during that meeting. Both ordinances had been made available for public reading earlier by displaying the verbiage on a poster board at City Hall, Mayor Bob Rice said. However, no public comment regarding either was received during the meeting. City officials said the second reading of the ordinances will occur at the next regular council meeting Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. Ordinance 860 simply separates the storm-sewer funds (from property taxes) and the regular sewage fund (from water-sewer bills). City officials said the change was necessary to pay for the storm sewer portion of the First Street Project. Public Works Director Dave Peterson said, “Before, (property owners) were being charged for storm sewer as a maintenance charge. We are making it into an enterprise fund for the cost of the First Street Project for the storm sewer.” The city water fund is an enterprise fund. The difference between a maintenance fund and an enterprise fund, is that the maintenance fund cannot be borrowed against. It cannot show debt. The enterprise fund can be borrowed against for improvements. Peterson said that separating the storm sewer fund and the sewage fund will allow city officials to borrow money to offset the cost of the First Street Project and future projects. “Our hope is that we won’t have to have as much of a reserve, and it might lower the cost of the storm sewer Assessment.” Surcharge restructured Ordinance 861 would change the amount property owners will pay on their property tax surcharge depending on the classification of their property. “We’re putting a cap on (properties) that have vacant land so (owners) are not being charged for the whole acreage,” Peterson said. “We never had the caps on it before. In the past (the surcharge) was based on square footage, but now it will be assessed based on different categories. It’s basically going to be (assessed) on the benefit to the property instead of a flat rate.” Deputy Director of Public Works Jeff Jansen said that on the 2007 property tax assessments, for a typical lot measuring 50 by 140 feet, the owner was charged $12.52 for the storm-sewer surcharge. Three new classifications are presented in the ordinance. Residential land includes single lots with one one-family or one twofamily residential structure which is occupied for residential purposes. Commercial land will mean each single lot with one or more commercial, business, governmental or other non-residential structures including multi-family residential structures (more than two families residing), along with garages, out buildings, paved parking lots and areas or other surface improvements located on the land. For land to be considered vacant, it must be a single lot on which no physical improvement of any kind is constructed. Exempt land is government- owned land used for public purposes (parks and cemeteries). The classifications also have subcategories, which are listed in the ordinance. Vacant and residential land will never be charged for more than two acres of land. Commercial properties will be assessed by the percentage of land covered with improved surfaces. "Most (tax surcharges) are going to go up because of the construction costs on First Street, but some (owners) may be paying more because of the acreage,” he said. “Other (property taxes) might come down, but it depends on how much difference in acreage there is.” Included with Ordinance 861 is Exhibit “A,” which shows areas of Havre not affecting the storm sewage drainage. Peterson said because these properties don’t contribute to the drainage the two areas west of Wilson Avenue and the areas known as the Quantum 5 subdivision east of town on the south side of U.S. Highway 2 won’t be assessed for the surcharge. Every other property falling within the city limits will be assessed. In other city council news: The Council approved the probationary appointment of Christopher J. Reichelt, 25, to the Havre Pollice Department. He is the son of Deputy Sheriff Monte Reichelt. A water and sewer committee meeting is set for Tuesday at 6:30 p. m. at City Hall. The Havre-Hill County Growth Policy Committee will meet Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. Three new Council members were sworn in: Cal Long (Ward 2), Bob Kaul (Ward 3) and Andrew Brekke (Ward 4). Pam Hillery (Ward 1) was also sworn in as a returning council member.