Council to advertise tax rate of 30 cents

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By John Barnhart

    When Bedford reverts to town status on July 1, town residents will pay both the county real estate tax of 50 cents per $100 of assessed value and a town real estate tax.

    The good news for current city residents is that their combined tax will be less than it currently is. That’s because city residents currently pay an 86 cent tax rate and City Council voted, Thursday evening, to advertise a town tax rate of 30 cents.  Now that the tax rate has been advertised, City Council can’t raise the rate, it can only go lower.
    The vote on the advertised tax rate was unanimous.
    “Whatever you decide to do tonight is not set in stone,” Mayor Bob Wandrei noted.

    Prior to setting the tax rate, Council members discussed and tweaked the budget that City Manager Charles Kolakowski had presented to them at their previous meeting. The town budget, that City Council is developing, is something that all of them, except Mary Flood, will have to deal with. Flood has chosen not to run for Town Council.
    Robert Carson, who is running, was present at the meeting to listen to the discussions. He had been provided with a copy of the budget in advance and had time to read it before the meeting. There are seven men running for seven seats, so all will be on the new Town Council. All of the current members, except Flood, are running.
    Debbie Roberts, the city’s treasurer, asked for an additional employee for the transition period after reversion takes effect. After reversion, the town will still be responsible for collecting any city taxes, or selling the delinquent properties. Roberts said that the number of non-collected properties is now down to 13, but these delinquencies will carry over into the fall because her office can’t get a court date before then.
    Another reason that Roberts wants an additional staff person is because the additional territory that will be included within town boundaries includes four retailers with a high volume of cigarette sales and these will be paying the town’s cigarette tax. Furthermore, restaurants in that area will be collecting the town’s 5 percent meals tax instead of the county’s 4 percent tax. Roberts said the restaurants only recently discovered that.
    “We really don’t know how much work we are going to have,” commented C. G. Stanley, who suggested the additional employee be budgeted for 12 months.
    Council unanimously accepted Stanley’s recommendation.
    The town will not have a recreation department as this is being handled by the county. The county’s department of parks and recreation uses volunteer associations to run rec leagues and the town of Bedford will have to form an association. Stanley suggested budgeting for an employee to oversee this and $3,000 for start-up costs in case the new association needs it.
    “There is no blueprint, there is no road map to go by,” said Stanley.
    Stanley recommended this position be budgeted for one fiscal year.
    Council voted unanimously to budget this position for six months and evaluate the need after three months.
    “I agree it is going to work,” he said. “But how we get there, nobody knows for sure.”
    Bedford City Police Chief Jim Day had asked for two replacement police cars, for a total of $63,000 and an SUV, at a cost of $39,000.
    “We don’t have a four-wheel drive vehicle now,” Day said. He said that, if they get in a situation where they need one, they have to borrow it from another department and these are not “police packaged.” He said that they keep four police vehicles on the road at all times and, in bad weather, one of them would be the SUV.
    “I cannot go along with an SUV in town,” said Councilman Steve Rush.
    Day said that there are alternatives, but he definitely needs to replace some of his vehicles. Day said that eight out of his 15 police cars have more than 100,000 miles on them.
    “These are everyday use cars,” he commented.
    Day said that they had to rebuild two engines and two transmissions in the past year.
    Council voted unanimously to buy three new police cars.
    Councilman Jim Vest suggested level funding all outside agencies, but provide the extra money the Wharton Foundation and Bedford Main Street asked for. Rush, however, moved to level fund all outside agencies.
    Rush’s motion passed on a 4-3 vote with Rush, Stanley, Wandrei and Mary Flood voting in favor. Vest, Stacey Hailey and Skip Tharp cast the dissenting votes.
    The town will also modify its gross receipts tax. According to Assistant City Manager Bart Warner, the tax will be restructured so that business will not pay more than $30.
    Kolakowski said this is being done because Bedford can’t have a license fee without a gross receipts tax. Having a license fee provides Bedford with a way to keep fly-by-night businesses out.