The City of Bettendorf will maintain its tax levy of $12.50 for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, and continue its approach of operating lean and aggressive capital investment, city administrator Decker Ploehn said Wednesday. 

Ploehn and city finance director Jason Schadt presented the proposed budget to the public Wednesday at Bettendorf City Hall. 

Aldermen will vote on the budget March 5. 

The budget sets aside $19.2 million for capital projects, $13.1 million to service debt and $65.4 million for operating costs. 

Residents will see a 4 percent increase in solid waste fees to maintain the break even operation and fund future replacements of trucks through cash reserves, Ploehn said. 

Beginning April 1, 2021, he said, annual solid waste fee increases could be reduced to 3 percent. 

The storm water fee will rise 35 cents to $4.80, and then to $5 on April 1, 2020. The sewer fee will increase 20 cents to $3.28. 

Schadt said for the Bettendorf city portion of taxes and fees, residents whose houses are at the mean value of a house in Bettendorf — $233,889 — will see an increase of $5.61 per month, or $67.32 annually, for a total annual cost of services of $2,195. That does not include the school district or the county taxes, Ploehn said. 

City officials in recent weeks, including Bettendorf Mayor Bob Gallagher, have pointed to the city’s financial outlook as positive, highlighting a flat overall levy rate and debt-financed capital projects aimed at growing the city’s tax base.

Major capital projects in the city’s budget include the continuation of a home buyout program for residences within the floodplain, the city’s share of payments for the ongoing I-74 bridge project and a major focus on streets and alleyways. Others include parks projects, money for Jetty Park and fixes for the city’s library.

To keep the levy flat, city officials have trimmed from special use funds earmarked for transportation, public safety pensions, liability insurance and employee health insurance, and moved that over to Bettendorf’s general fund.

City officials have also lowered the dependence on gaming revenues, a source of money that’s projected to decline in coming years. Gaming dollars to the city’s Family Museum and debt service fund are being phased out over the next several years under the recommended budget proposal as a way to build up the city’s discretionary fund balance to $2.3 million in five years.

Cities are required to have their budgets certified by the county auditor’s office before March 15, or face the risk of being unable to collect taxes for the next fiscal year. 

Ploehn and Schadt said their biggest concern for the future is sewer costs Bettendorf shares its waste water treatment plant with Davenport, Riverdale and Panorama Park. There are mandates coming, Schadt said, "so these costs are going to rise."

"We're in a consent order with the Department of Natural Resources and the City of Davenport to no longer or to try to no longer dump raw sewage into the river," Ploehn said. "We do about three times a year typically when there are high water events or flooding, and the state doesn’t want us to do that."

To get away from dumping in the river, he said, there will have to be numerous improvements at the plant, including the construction of an equalization basin — essentially a big pit to where sewage will be diverted. 

Additionally, he said, the water will have to be disinfected and there will be nutrient removal. 

"I think (sewer) costs will double in the next 10 years," Ploehn said. 

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