Sioux City Tax Payers Face Property Tax Increase

(SIOUX CITY, IA) It's that time of year again.

Sioux City is crunching the numbers trying to figure out the budget for the next fiscal year. And it looks like no matter what happens your property taxes are probably going up.

This year Sioux city's proposed budget is $17 million less than last year's totaling about $232 million.

That includes operating and capital budgets plus payments on Sioux City's current debt.

But the budget is not set in stone yet and because of the recent controversy around red light and speed cameras the city may need to cut even more.

State rules for the placement of speed cameras went into affect this month which meant the Sioux City Police Department had to re-evaluate where those speed trailers go.

"There are setbacks that we have to be 15 feet off the traveled portion of the roadway and so we are out measuring spots and seeing where we could possibly do that," said Captain Mel Williams, of the Sioux City Police Department.

Captain Williams said the speed cameras could be back out on the road soon but if the setbacks keep them off the road then the revenue generated by those tickets would disappear from the city's budget.

For 2014, red light and speed cameras here brought in more than $4.4 million. The city said that money was used to offset a property tax increase by funding operating costs for the police and fire departments plus road improvements.

"Currently we're proposing a property tax increase and Tuesday we'll be working to decrease what we need. So far with the capital improvement budget, they've already reduced property tax asking's by $538,000," said Donna Forker, the City Budget and Finance Manager.

Forker said the city is trying to minimize the tax increase. But she said the city is planning ahead just in case the red light and speed cameras get the boot.

The city is also considering other ways to save money, like a hiring freeze that, if approved, would go into affect immediately and end by June 30th, the start of the 2015 fiscal year.

"You could save anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000 depending on what positions opened up. During this time of year, you have to have some leeway knowing someone's going to go or not. I mean we don't know," said Forker.

The city manager would be the only one who could hire someone new and make that call on a case by case basis.

Forker said that idea is only in the early planning phase. The budget wrap up is scheduled for Tuesday.

The city also approved a new contract that will start replacing old water meters with new technology.

The old meters rely on land line phone connections. Once a month those boxes call in the amount of water a customer has used.

But now more people are using cell phones instead of land lines. That's why the city decided it was time to catch up.

9,500 new units that work off a radio frequency have been installed.

"We have mobile equipment in a vehicle, we'll drive around the areas of town when it's time to read those meters and these send out a signal that communicates with our mobile equipment and we get the reading that way. There's a unique serial number tied to this and it sees the unique serial number and knows it's attached to a certain address and we'll know what the certain reading is for the meter and we'll just log all those meter readings for the day for billing purposes," said Joe Uran, Customer Service Supervisor for Sioux City.

In 2002 the city spent nearly $6 million to install the land line meters. These new meters cost about half of that price and will last about 10 years longer saving the city money in the long run.

The city still needs to replace about 19,000 of the old meters.