Ashland property tax increase proposed to save city positions

A typical Ashland homeowner may pay about $35 more in property taxes each year to save 31/2 emergency services-related jobs.

Ashland City Administrator Martha Bennett has proposed an $80.9 million budget for the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1. That's down from this fiscal year's adopted budget of $95.2 million.

Combined with staff cuts made in December 2008 to deal with the economic recession, the equivalent of 14.35 full-time employees would be cut if the Ashland Citizens' Budget Committee approves the proposed budget.

Under the proposed budget, property taxes would go up 6 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or $12.90 for the owner of a home at Ashland's median assessed value of $225,000.

That increase is part of a voter-approved levy to help fund the Ashland Public Library.

Jobs in the Ashland police and fire departments are among those on the chopping block.

Saving two firefighters' jobs would cost the owner of a median-value home another $21.15 a year.

Preserving CERT Coordinator Lucy Edwards' job would cost the same homeowner $9.45 extra each year. Through the CERT program, Edwards trains residents to take care of themselves, their families and their community during emergencies, such as natural disasters.

Preventing a police records clerk's job from being cut to half-time would cost $3.83 per year for the median-priced home.

Although Bennett has proposed a budget that only includes a property tax increase of 6 cents per $1,000 in assessed value, she recommended that the Budget Committee raise Ashland's property tax to its legal ceiling, which would add on almost 21 cents more per $1,000 in assessed value.

City property taxes for the owner of a home assessed at $225,000 would increase from $994 this fiscal year to $1,052 — an increase of about $58.

With the added money, Bennett said her recommendation would be that the city build a minimum reserve of $133,000, save the jobs of the two firefighters and the CERT coordinator and keep the police records clerk at full-time.

Budget Committee member Bill Heimann said the committee needs to look not only at the effect of property tax increases, but at the impact of increasing city fees on residents.

The city raised water fees by 10 percent and sewer fees by 20 percent, effective as of this week.

The combined rate increases will cost a typical family of four in a 1,500-square-foot house with landscaping an average of about $6.60 more each month, city staff estimated.

That amounts to $79.20 each year.

"The impact is real," Bennett agreed, adding later, "We do need to look at the cumulative impact." Most of the proposed budget reduction for the coming fiscal year comes from the city doing less to maintain and improve its infrastructure.

Infrastructure spending, budgeted at $10.34 million this fiscal year, would drop to $5.59 million for the coming fiscal year.

The Budget Committee — which is made up of residents, the Ashland City Council and Mayor John Stromberg — will continue to review the city budget over the next three weeks.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 479-8199 or

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