Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes said it best during the last Marshall city council meeting: "This is a year we can justify a zero percent increase" in the city's levy.
The city had proposed a 2.2 percent increase from 2011 at the meeting, but all signs point to either a 1 precent increase or no increase at all. That will be discussed at tonight's council meeting.
Commercial property owners and managers against any levy increase presented the council with more than two dozen letters at the last meeting, citing large property tax increases in 2009. Pair that with skyrocketing utility rates and you have yourself a serious issue.
The elimination of the Homestead Market Value Credit (it was replaced with the Homestead Market Value Exclusion) is just one more reason the city should consider dropping any proposed levy increase - apartment building and commercial/industrial property taxes jumped almost 3 percent because of the state Legislature's move to get rid of the HMVC, and if apartment managers take it on the chin from yet another direction that burden could very well be shifted to renters, many of whom are already struggling in a wicked economy that has, among other things, resulted in rising food prices.
Now is not the time to be further burdening property owners and managers, and, potentially, renters. Now is the time to give them, and taxpayers in the city of Marshall in general, a break. And the city is in prime condition to do that - it has a six-month operating reserve of more than $5 million and a total general reserve of $7.4 million, Marshall city councilman Charlie Sanow said.
"We absolutely don't need it at this time,"?Sanow said of a levy increase. "Why we would do it now, I don't know."
"There are a lot of needed projects that reserves could go to," ?Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig said. "And there are funds available if the council chooses to keep the levy flat."
Is there room for council compromise? We hope so. A 1 percent increase looks better than 2.2, but even that could be enough to cause some headaches for property owners and managers.
"The bottom line is what the council feels comfortable doing - do they want zero or a 1 percent increase," Martig said. "There seems to be a consensus opinion of doing an incremental increase this year to avoid a larger increase in the future."
We suggest holding off on any levy increase for 2012. Everyone's belts are tight enough as it is.