Bettendorf presents budget to public

2014-02-19T21:07:00Z 2014-02-19T22:11:01Z Bettendorf presents budget to publicJack Cullen jcullen@qctimes.com The Quad-City Times

More than a dozen residents attended Bettendorf's annual presentation of the budget Wednesday at City Hall.

For the 2014-15 fiscal year, Bettendorf's budget is $89.8 million, and it maintains the current tax rate of $12.55 per $1,000 of taxable valuation. It also includes the fourth year of a five-year schedule of increases in the city's storm water, sewer and garbage fees.

From the get-go, City Administrator Decker Ploehn stressed that Bettendorf has to spend money to continue its growth.

"All the growth in the Quad-Cities is right here," he said.

In the 2014-15 fiscal year, Bettendorf will have one of the highest debt ratios in Iowa, but also one of the lowest general fund property tax levy rates in the state at $5.44 per $1,000 taxable valuation, he said.

Based on the median value of a Bettendorf single family home of $165,260, the average homeowner would see an annual increase in the storm water fee of $4.20, an annual increase of $4.56 in garbage collection fees and an annual increase of $17.64 in the sewer fee, Ploehn said.

As a result of the state's new 5 percent rollback on commercial property, business owners will benefit from a 2.87 percent tax reduction, while residential property owners will see a 2.68 increase on their properties, he said.

Ploehn pointed out that more than $700,000, or about 60 percent of all additional tax dollars for the 2014-15 fiscal year, will sprout from new construction of residential, industrial and commercial properties. Throughout 2013, the city gained 168 new houses.

Ploehn said the costs to deal with the growth have escalated and the city recently has faced challenges to staff that growth.

For the first time in 10 years, the city is hiring four new full-time employees, two storm water equipment operators, one administrative assistant in the human resources and legal department and one equipment operator at Palmer Hills Golf Course.

The majority of discussion during the meeting centered around salaries of employees.

City employees will pay more in insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, but they will also receive a 1.9 percent cost-of-living increase. 

"I'd like to stay in Bettendorf, and I believe people should be paid a nice salary, but it makes me wonder when we can level out those salaries," said 82-year-old Jeneane Marshall, a Bettendorf resident for the past 50 years.

Ploehn responded by highlighting that the city's cost-of- living expenditures for its employees has not been less than 2 percent in 15 years.

"You want your employees to be motivated and want them to do more with less, but at the same time we shouldn't be the highest paying and we shouldn't be the lowest paying," said Ploehn, who added the city's salaries for police officers and firefighters rank among the top five highest in the state.

Tyler Freund, a 20-year-old resident who graduated from Bettendorf High School in 2012, also attended the meeting.

"I thought it was interesting to see how much Bettendorf is expanding, while a lot of cities are already set in place," said Freund, who currently attends Scott Community College. "It's very cool to see how big our budget is and see all of the plans to progress the city."

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