Lansing City Council discusses mill levies

Connie Parish/Special to the Times

Maintaining a flat mill levy is no longer the point in 2022 city and county budget preparation, the Lansing finance director told Lansing City Council members at a previous meeting.

That’s because even though mill levies have remained flat in most governmental agencies, they have had more money budgeted than the previous year because the assessed valuation has gone up. And it’s meant property taxes have gone up for most property owners.

With that in mind, the 2021 Legislature passed Senate Bill 3 late in the session, which is designed to provide more transparency for property owners.

The bill requires a revenue neutral rate in the budget or the entity is subject to public hearings, said Finance Director Beth Sanford. A revenue neutral rate means the government entity, in this case the city, would not budget more actual revenue than it did the previous year.

For Lansing, the city’s revenue neutral rate would have been about 38.7 mills, compared to the 41.57 mill rate currently. That’s because the assessed valuation went from about $90.2 million to about $96.9 million

The proposed budget for the city calls for a rate of 40.3 mills, which is above the revenue neutral rate, but reflects a mill levy decrease of a little more than .5 mills.

Sanford said that means the city will have to hold a public hearing prior to the hearing to adopt the budget. She said the League of Municipalities thought it would be good if all cities actually held a public hearing this year in order to discover the impact of the new legislation.

After this year, Sanford said, the county will have to send every taxpayer a letter explaining just how much their taxes would increase prior to the public hearings if the entities decided to exceed the revenue neutral rate.

This year, she said, the legislation was passed so late in the session, the counties didn’t have time to prepare for that. She said the city would be explaining all this on its website as a means of educating the public this year prior to the public hearing.

Council members also learned about three capital items that had been requested and recommended for the 2022 budget. They are:

– A skid loader and trailer at an estimated cost of $77,000.

– Painting the interior of the city’s municipal building that houses the library as well as carpeting the library. The cost is estimated at %55,000.

– Replacing the exterior doors on the south end of the gym in the Lansing Activity Center at a cost of $60,000.

Council members asked about lowering the mill levy more than the .5 mill for 2022. City Administrator Tim Vandall said they could go to .7 mill lower, but considering the projects the city has in the future, such as the park plan, he didn’t recommend it. 

Council member Gene Kirby said he wanted everyone to know the city has nothing to do with the assessed valuation of property. This is done by the county appraiser.