"Theoretically, people wouldn't see any real difference in their property tax statements," explained City Administrator Joel Young as he commenced the Chatfield City Council meeting on Monday, Dec. 9, with the 2014 Budget and Tax Levy Hearing.

Young informed the council members of this point through PowerPoint statistics comparing 2013 numbers to preliminary 2014 numbers. The general levy will be decreasing by 0.04 percent or a little less than $500 for a total of $1,020,564. He noted four special levies that were for debt service purposes which totaled $205,229. The total levy decreased 0.002 percent, or roughly $24.

Young showed the impact of the tax levy according to six properties tracked by the city. Young explained that though the total city levy stayed nearly the same, different impacts would be seen. He attributed this to a "mix of variables" that would cause one residential property to see a 10.8 percent decrease in taxes and an industrial property to see a 2.5 percent increase in the same year.

One of the city's guiding principles was to keep the 2014 levy as close to the 2013 levy as possible to limit financial strain on its residents. Others were to minimize sanitary sewer rate increases, maintain strong public safety departments, invest in city infrastructure, provide a secure financial foundation for the Chatfield Center for the Arts, and protect the city's AA bond rating.

Capital improvements in 2014 included street, water and sewer improvements on Twiford Street, St. Albans Place, Bench Street, First Street and Second Street; and street improvements in west Chatfield. Young noted that these should all fit within the budget.

Planning and zoning goals for 2014 are to work with the DNR for the Mill Creek restoration, update thoroughfare plans, floodway mapping, comprehensive planning and developing web-based tools to community involvement.

Emergency response departmental goals are for all full-time police officers to be trained on a new intoxilyzer machine, improve fire department community outreach, improve ambulance department-led community awareness training and provide two EMT classes both in the evening and daytime.

Sanitary sewer goals include televising approximately 10,000 feet of pipe.

CCTV would like to improve Chatfield High School activity coverage, recruit part-time support, and improve systems at Potter Auditorium.

A one percent pay grade increase for city personnel was included in the final budget and will impact the general fund by $19,700.

The Center for the Arts will receive an increase of $35,000 in support from the city. Young noted that the Center will receive $20,000 in rental revenue.

Local government aid will increase by $84,000. Young said this was a primary factor in keeping the levy flat.

Mayor Russell Smith asked if that increase brought the aid back to where it was before LGA was cut several years ago. Young responded that it brought it back to numbers seen in 2003.

The council adopted the resolution for the one percent pay grade increase. The council also approved the tax levy for 2014 with the moving of $20,000 originally allocated to the EDA to go instead toward street and utility improvement projects.

Other business

In other business, the council took care of the following issues.

• Kristi Clarke from Planning and Zoning presented the preliminary and final plat proposal for EZ Fabricating. The single lot was split from an existing lot owned by Tuohy's along St. Albans Place. Sewer and water will be extended to the new plat. Both the preliminary and final plat were approved.

• The fee ordinance for 2014 was approved. Water rates will go up three percent and sewer rates by six percent. Demolition permits, which had been issued free of charge before, are now $45 per permit.

• City Superintendent Tony Lammers explained that the 300,000 gallon water tank near the school needed to be recirculated in order to prevent ice collection. A small mixing pump will help with that, save wear and tear on current pumps and improve water quality. The council gave its approval to purchase a new water mixing pump for $11,995.

• Lammers also shared his progress in switching downtown lighting to LED. Retro-fit LED lights would cost $550 per fixture. It was recommended that six lights get installed to see what they look like. The lights are supposed to be brighter, last longer and use less energy. The council approved the new lighting as well as two new poles and light fixtures.

• Councilman Paul Novotny suggested that as many parking spaces be left open on the main street for business customers and visitors. Mayor Smith noted that the downtown parking issue was something brought up every year.

• Young noted in his clerk's report that the city was in the process of hiring in public works.

• Young provided information on possibly amending the liquor license. He said the increased activity at the Center for the Arts seems to be creating a need for a license since it was cumbersome to keep approving temporary licenses. However, he also noted that since the volume of sales hadn't increased, it may not be worth it to approve a more expensive license. He suggested the fee ordinance be amended to reflect a reduced cost in liquor licenses for non-profit groups.