The Cherokee City Council set separate public hearings for two bonding proposals, one for community center improvements and one for an equipment truck that would replace a 1985 vehicle currently used for that purpose.
The public hearings will both be held on the same night, March 11, it was decided at a special council meeting on Tuesday of this week.
The bond for the community center would be for $400,000 in improvements. The bond for the equipment van would be for $250,000.
The council may approve the community center bond following the public hearing, but citizens could petition for a special election on that bond. Since the fire department van is considered an essential corporate purpose, a decision by the city council to bond for the van would be final, not subject to a petition for a bond vote.
The estimated property tax increase for the two bonds together would be about 75 cents per $1,000 of taxable valuation. Currently, the tax rollback on residential property means that about $45,000 is taxable on a $100,000 home.
The debt service levy portion of the city's property tax is currently $3.06 but will go to $5.10 next year based on factors other than the proposed new bonds. With the addition of an estimated 75 cents, the debt service levy would go to about $5.85.
Those figures are based on the city designating $300,000 in revenue from the one-cent local option sales tax toward debt service levy reduction. If the city designated more of this revenue for this purpose then this levy amount can be reduced.
The community center improvement proposals had been discussed at length during earlier meetings of the council. Discussion of the bonds at this week's meeting centered on the proposal to purchase an equipment van.
Roger Frisbie, CFD treasurer, and Dave Lucas, fire chief, were present to describe the vehicle and to answer questions.
The van would carry turnout gear of the firemen as well as other equipment. In the case of response to a fire out of town, it would also carry firemen. In town, firemen respond directly to the scene with the van arriving separately. Currently, equipment is divided among more vehicles than would respond to a call. Frisbie noted that one time a saw was needed at a scene of an accident and this required a return to the station by one of the firemen to get it.
Much of the equipment would be secured outside of the van or in well-secured compartments. Frisbie stated that the current arrangement creates the possibility of dangerous projectiles in the event of a rollover. Also, the firemen themselves cannot be well secured in the current vehicle.
"I'm worried about the public crucifying us for raising taxes like that," Greg Stieneke, council member, stated.
"A quarter of a million dollars is a lot of money. Can't you find a less expensive vehicle?" asked Bob Leach, council member, who was conducting the meeting as mayor pro tem in the mayor's absence.
Frisbie said that he has not gotten a firm bid on the vehicle but has calculated the cost based on an earlier estimate.
Mick Mallory, council member, said that if the city doesn't keep up its equipment, it might be paying for it down the road. "With taxes being rolled back, this may be the only way to keep up equipment," he said.
"My job is first of all to protect citizens. If the fire department says they need this vehicle, I believe them," Linda Burkhart, council member, said.
Deb Taylor, city clerk, explained that the city of Cherokee's portion of the countywide one-cent local option sales tax for municipalities and county government has been designated for Cherokee street improvements along with water, sewer, sidewalk and storm sewer repairs that accompany a street project. The city may also use that revenue to reduce bond service for street projects. Much of the bonding in the city has been for street projects.
The figure of $5.10 per $1,000 of taxable valuation, prior to passage of the proposed bonds, is based on $300,000 of this revenue going to debt service. Taylor estimated that another $200,000 designated for debt service would reduce the debt service levy by about $1.91. This would reduce the levy to about $3.21 prior to approval of any further bonding.
The city cannot use any portion of local option sales tax revenue or any bond funds for general fund operations.
The motion to hold a hearing on a bond for the fire department vehicle passed on a vote of 4 to 1, with only Stieneke opposing that motion.
The motion to hold a hearing on a bond for the community center passed unanimously.
Neither motion commits any of the council members to approve either of the bonds following the public hearings on March 11.