The Centralia City council approved on first reading the 2021 budget on Tuesday evening and voted not to increase the property tax levy by one percent as allowed by law.
The budget was presented by Centralia Finance Director Bret Brodersen.
“We currently are in the tail end of our 2020 fiscal year and are undergoing our 2019 audit. We are now in the policy and development phase of our 2021-22 budget cycle,” Brodersen said.
The total proposed 2021-22 budget is $142.8 million. The city of Centralia, with a service area of 7.5 square miles, is home to about 17,300 residents and 1,200 licensed businesses, reported Brodersen.
The beginning general fund balance is at $6.9 million. General fund revenues were estimated at $22.8 million and general fund expenditures were estimated at $23.7 million. An estimated $16 million is expected to be collected in taxes in the 2021-22 budget.
“That leaves it at $4,661,777 that’s in the general fund that’s available,” Brodersen said.
The city’s general fund is used for basic municipal services including administration, police and fire services, building and planning, public works, parks and street maintenance, municipal court and recreation services. The police and fire services compose about 57 percent of the general fund budget.
The city is required by state law to adopt a property tax no later than Nov. 30 and the budget must be adopted by Dec. 31. Both of these will be presented on second reading and for approval at the next city council meeting on Nov. 24.
From January to October of this year the collected sales tax totals $213,343 compared to the same time frame in 2019, sales tax totaled $192,740.
Property tax makes up 6 percent of the general fund revenues. The council has the option to impose a one percent property tax increase each year without a vote from the public. The one percent is based upon the value of property within the city limits. The county assessor revalues property each year. The council voted not to increase the property tax by one percent this year on first reading.
“I think the city maintains a very good budget. I’m always pleased to see that we maintain not only good revenues but that we maintain our reserves at 7.5 percent. The 2021-22 budget doesn’t indicate an increase in the property tax levy and therefore, in a policy sense, if the city doesn’t necessarily need it — and it doesn’t need it — then I believe it’s not proper to increase property tax no matter how small or big,” Mayor Pro-tem Peter Abbarno said.
Abbarno said when it comes to public perception, taking into account the Centralia School District’s double levy failure, the city shouldn’t increase property taxes if the city does not need to.
A final reading of the final budget amendment for the 2019 fiscal year will be presented to the council at the Dec. 8 city council meeting.
There were no public comments made on the property tax or budget presentations. The full 2021-22 budget document can be found on the city’s website under the finance department — www.cityofcentralia.com/Page.asp?NavID=284.