STANTON — Taxes won’t be going up anytime soon in this city.
At Tuesday evening’s meeting, the Stanton City Commission approved a 2014-2015 budget that not only balances, but won’t be adding any tax burden to city residents.
The budget passed unanimously, with the current millage rate of 13.6154 remaining unchanged for the coming fiscal year. Despite this, the city’s economic forecast is fairly rosy, according to City Manager James Freed.
“It’s a balanced operating budget,” Freed said. “The only fund balance being used is for capital outlay.”
Some of that comes in the form of $65,000 to fund park and recreational improvements within the city. Since the city had set aside $100,000 for that purpose, $40,000 earmarked for those improvements remains in the general fund.
In addition to passing the budget, the commission also voted to approve a six-year, long-range capital improvement plan which spells out all major expenditures the city is likely to be looking at through 2020. By being proactive, commissioners hope to avoid any “surprises” down the road, surprises that could knock the city’s budget off kilter.
“This provides a six-year road map to achieving the city’s deliverables but in a balanced way and without raising our taxes,” Freed said. “This tells our residents and businesses that we won’t be reinventing the wheel every budget year. Unlike some communities, we don’t spend our money for a year and then wonder where it’s going to come from again.”
Freed claims Stanton is the only area municipality, aside from Lakeview where he is village manager, to have a long-term plan of this type in place. By keeping taxes low and demonstrating a long-term commitment to keeping them that way, Stanton commissioners are hopeful business and new residents will be attracted to move and invest in the area.
“The budget not only reflects a stable and responsible operational government, it furthermore represents our commitment to community development and quality of life,” Freed said. “Our greatest economic advantage is that we are a great place to live, work and raise a strong family. Our investments in public safety and parks and recreation are a testament to that cause.
“The six-year projected budget and capital improvement plan demonstrate to not only our residents, but just as importantly the business community that we are a stable and secure place to invest capital, expand operations and grow jobs. Low taxes, stable government and quality infrastructure are not just about quality of life, but also job growth and creation.”
In other business, the commission approved the replacement of many of the city’s current mercury-vapor type street lamps with high pressure sodium lights. The cost of the project is being borne by Consumers Energy, which owns and maintains the lights.
Commissioner Karl Yoder said he would like to see LED (light emitting diode) lights replace the mercury-vapor lamps. The street lamps along the downtown business area, which were put in during the recent streetscape project, are of the LED variety.
“Why can’t we get the LEDs in?” Yoder asked.
Freed explained that Consumers Energy is willing to put the high pressure sodium lamps in for free, but LED replacements would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000 per unit to replace, a price which would have to be borne by the city.
“Personally, I’d rather get the free ones,” Freed said.
Freed also noted the reason the LED bulbs in the downtown area were not nearly so expensive was because they did not have to be retrofitted to existing poles.
The new bulbs will lower the city’s metered per-light rate from $14 to $11 per month.
The commission meets next on May 27.