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City council likely to seek March 7 election for new tax levy (video)

Mason City council and mayor listen to Finance Director Kevin Jacobson explain how the capitol improvement levy would work

MASON CITY – At a work session held Monday night at City Hall where no formal action was taken, the Mason City council agreed in principle to seek an election to be held on March 7 for a Capital Improvement levy.

The entire council and mayor are strongly in favor of the proposal, it was evident during the work session.  What was not easily agreed upon was a date for the election for the new levy, which would be set at 67 cents per $1,000 of property valuation.  Only Marshalltown uses this Capital improvement levy, along with all other towns in Iowa under 10,000 in population, it was said during the meeting.  The dollars collected would not be useful until the budget until the 2019-2020 budget.  If approved, the levy could save taxpayers thousands of dollars in bonding and interest costs, with the possibility of lowering the general levy later.

“This financial mechanism would set this city up for success for many many years,” city administrator Brent Trout said during the work session.

City finance director Kevin Jacobson told NIT Tuesday that “the language for what it (the money collected in the levy) is to be used for would be in the vote.  It is for CAPITAL only.  The intent would be to use in the 19-20 (budget), unless Debt Service drops more than I have projected.  If we were to see a .15 or greater drop in levy, I would probably ask for some of that as CIL in 18-19 (budget).  All depends on where things (go) next year.”

The council struggled to agree on the date to hold the referendum.  Three council members and Mayor Eric Bookmeyer sought a March 7 date, while three others thought a May 2 date would be more appropriate so that the public could be fully briefed on the proposal.  Due to trust issues between the public and city hall elected officials, councilman John Lee wanted to extend to the May 2 election date to make the public comfortable with the proposal.  Councilman Bill Schickel said “It takes 30 days to put a decent campaign together, my goodness.”  Mayor Eric Bookmeyer complained that waiting until May 2 for the election on the Capital Improvement levy would distract city hall staff from preparing for another looming referendum – on bonding for a multi-use / ice arena.

After much discussion, the council agreed on the March 7 election date.  To succeed, the item must get 50% +1 of the ballots.

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