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Residents in Columbus can expect a smaller property tax bill if the city passes a proposed budget presented to the common council.

Council members got a look at the 2018 budget during a presentation from Finance Director Kim Manley and City Administrator Patrick Vander Sanden at their meeting Nov. 21 at city hall. In 2017, the city undertook a full re-evaluation of properties, which hadn’t been done in several years. As a result, the city discovered its economic growth grew by more than $34 million from 2016 to 2017.

“The last four years have now shown a positive increase in values after we went through a stretch of severe decline during the last recession period,” Manley said.

The finance director said the added value is beneficial to the city because it splits up the tax levy into more “slices.” Manley said Columbus has a greater area to levy taxes over when property values are raised.

“For some, it will be a lower tax bill, for others higher, depending on how the re-evaluation adjusted their individual property value,” Manley said.

For 2018, the city is proposing a budget of $3.27 million, which is about $81,000 higher than last year. But since the property values rose in 2017, the typical property owner will pay $1.76 less in taxes than they did last year. The mill rate also dipped, going from $8.67 last year to $8.03 this year. Taxpayers will pay $21.77 per $1,000 in assessed property value.

“The levy is at its lowest level since before 2009,” Manley said.

Vander Sanden outlined several budget considerations for next year. Along with a few street projects, the city expects to add staff to city hall, approve a new police contract, and expand health care options for employees.

For street projects, Columbus plans to refurbish parts of South Water Street, from East James Street to East School Street and for East School Street from Ludington to Waterloo. Two Department of Transportation projects are also on tap, which includes work along the Highway 16/60 and 151 interchange and resurfacing a stretch of Park Avenue from Faith Drive to Heritage Court.

The city is also looking to upgrade its communications, including the city website, social media and cable connections. Other portions of the budget address needs for the public works department, fencing at Kiwanis Park, another collection date for trash and recycling, new software for the police department and a mutual agreement with the fire department to purchase new trucks. Columbus is also looking to pave the Meister Park parking lot and fund the planned extension to Hall Road.

Snowmobile access

Columbus continues to look at solutions for its snowmobile problem and hopes to come to a quick-fix at the next council meeting Dec. 5.

It’s likely the council will approve an ordinance to allow limited access along the city’s boundaries. The new route would include “spurs” of roadway that would allow riders to access gas stations, lodging and food.

The Columbus-Fall River Snowblazers snowmobile group provided an updated trail map to the city council. Mayor Michael Thom was very pleased with the detailed map. A new ordinance could be passed at the next council meeting, but it would not allow an inter-city trail. Columbus may revisit a proposal for more access, but with snow coming soon, it likely wouldn’t come until next year.

“I’m in favor of restricted access in the future,” Thom said. “When everything went crazy we actually closed the trail last year. We still have a right-of-access issue, but maybe we look into some sort of trail pass for next year.”

Council members have been mostly split on how much snowmobile access should be allowed in Columbus.

“I would like to offer more residential access, but with snow coming soon we need to pass a resolution to provide some access soon,” Council Member Trina Reid said.

Contact Kevin Damask at 608-963-7323 or on Twitter @kdamask