Bellevue property owners will see an increase in taxes next year, but diners at Bellevue restaurants won't see a city tax attached to their bills any time soon.
The Bellevue City Council, seeking to erase a $5 million deficit, passed a nearly $70 million budget Monday night.
The property tax increase next year will amount to an extra 4˝ cents per $100 of assessed valuation, for a total of 60 cents. In a year the levy will rise again, to 61 cents. That's larger than a preliminary proposal, which would have raised taxes by 3˝ cents the first year.
Council President Don Preister had sought consideration of a 2.5 percent tax on restaurant meals, but after hearing residents' objections, he withdrew the proposal.
“I'm not ruling it out for the future, but at this point, I think we can dispense with it,” he said.
The council voted 4-1 to approve the budget. Councilman Paul Cook voted no, saying he was unhappy with how the council conducted itself during the budget process.
“I feel several proposed cuts in this budget would have negative effects on our city,” he said.
However, other council members and the mayor objected to Cook's statement, saying the budget discussion was a collaborative process.
On top of the tax increase, residents will see cuts to services and delays in planned projects. But they won't see the previously proposed reductions in fire and police services. The council voted to strike those cuts. Instead, the city will delay various projects such as sidewalk construction and police radios.
One major cost is hiring nine full-time firefighters as part of the city's move toward a full-time fire department. Fire Chief Perry Guido has cautioned that the use of part-time firefighters is becoming unsustainable.
The Nebraska Legislature put Bellevue on a path toward a paid department four years ago. Council members said they are trying to make the transition as slowly and inexpensively as possible, but the change is costly.
“It's a tough deal, and there's a lot of change involved,” said council member Steve Knutson. “It's not always the easiest change, either.”
Council members praised the paid firefighters for their quicker response time.
“The response times, I think, speak for themselves,” Preister said.