By Kevin Boneske
HOWARD – Given the opportunity to borrow money at interest rates less than inflationary rates to repair roads, the Howard village board voted 7-1 Monday, Nov. 23, to add $40,000 to the tax levy to fund additional road work as part of next year’s budget.
Trustee Chris Nielsen said he has been against raising the village’s tax rate, but because of the all the road projects the village has pending and the drop in interest rates during the COVID-19 pandemic, “it makes sense to do something.”
“In the long run, we’re going to save money, even though it’s costing us, which is kind of an oxymoron,” he said.
Trustee Maria Lasecki, who urged caution on raising taxes because of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on residents, cast the lone dissenting vote.
“I think there are definitely needs associated with our roads, but I think we need to be careful, because these are very uncertain times and there are a lot of families (and) a lot of households who are going through a great deal right now,” she said. “While the (interest) rates are great, when you don’t have money in the bank, it’s tough.”
Director of Administrative Service Chris Haltom said the $40,000 was added to the levy for an interest payment next year as part of $4.5 million in new debt being paid off over 15 years to bring the overall tax levy of $7,199,347, an increase of $250,750 from the previous year.
He said the interest payment will add three cents to the mill rate, which is increasing overall from the previous year by 9 cents to $3.93 per $1,000.
The board discussed various sections of roads the village is looking to upgrade to urban roadways when it decided to approve the construction of three sections of roads as an addition to the 2021 budget.
Haltom said those sections include Evergreen Avenue from Rolla Lane to Pinecrest Road, a section of Pinecrest Road from Evergreen Avenue south to Devroy Lane and another section of Evergreen Avenue from Graceland Terrace west to the bridge below Coral Reef Road.
He said all of these sections of roadway are estimated to cost $4,375,000, and the board approved reconstructing these roads along with borrowing $4.5 million to fund these improvements with an additional contingency of $125,000.
In addition to the additional money for road work, Haltom said the 2021 budget maintains service levels in almost every department except public works, which will be eliminating one full-time position.
He said the budget will continue to fund capital projects with the tax levy as the primary source of funding for these projects and equipment purchases.
However, Haltom said the village has several sections of roads in urban developing areas that are in need of upgrading from a rural road to a urban roadway with sidewalks, curb and gutter and storm sewer.
He said some of these roads may also need water and sewer services extended.