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Clayton Tax Rates for 2013 Worry Some Aldermen

City Manager Craig Owens said the rates will help Clayton keep up with the cost of inflation, pay off debt and recoup revenue it would have made last year as a result of assessed valuation appeals.

A review of the —including a proprosed increase in the total tax rate for homeowners and commercial-property owners—drew concern from two city representatives Tuesday during a meeting of the Board of Aldermen. Meanwhile, another alderman said rates fluctuate yearly, something that hasn't resulted in complaints.

Under the proposed tax levy, a resident with a home valued at $600,000 would pay about $82 more in Clayton property taxes in 2013 than in the previous year, a memo from City Manager Craig Owens states. The total Clayton residential tax rate would rise from $0.717 per $100 of assessed valuation to $0.789, while the total Clayton personal property tax rate would rise from $0.798 to $0.837.

Ward 3 Alderman Mark Winings said the ordinance troubles him because it equates to a 7 percent tax increase for residents and a 10 percent tax increase for owners of commercial property. According to the proposal, the total Clayton commercial tax would rise from $0.772 to $0.867, an increase of $0.095.

Those figures go beyond an increase to adjust for the cost of inflation, Winings said.

He expressed support for the work city staff have done to spend down Clayton's reserves and explore a variety of cost savings while noting that the city might have to approach voters for a tax increase in the next several years.

Owens said the proposed tax rates will allow Clayton to recoup roughly $143,000 it would have acquired last year as a result of assessed valuation appeals. Additionally, the debt-service levy included in the tax rates is higher than normal because the city is in the final year of a bond repayment.

Ward 3 Alderman Alex Berger III agreed with Winings.

"I'm in a bit of a hesitant quandary myself," he said. He described the commercial tax rate as "surprising" and asked for examples of how the rates would affect Clayton businesses.

Owens provided several examples: Simons Jewelers would pay $264 more in Clayton taxes than the previous year, he said, while the owners of Centene Plaza would pay roughly $10,800 more in Clayton taxes.

Ward 2 Alderman Michelle Harris said while it's true that some of the tax rates would go up under the proposal, rates also have gone down in years past. Cities have the ability to adjust rates in an effort to flatten out their revenue streams, she said. She said that while she doesn't want to be "cavalier about tax increases," she hasn't heard complaints from residents or commercial-property owners.

Mayor Linda Goldstein said tax rates will be adjusted based on property valuations. The proposal allows the city to seek the maximum revenue possible, she said, noting that the proposed rates are lower than those levied in 2006 before the recession.

In an interview before Tuesday's budget discussion, Owens said city staff have developed a three-year plan aimed at balancing Clayton's budget. Several steps are in place or under consideration: Several staff positions have been combined, and an early retirement program is being reviewed by aldermen.

The goal is to identify cuts that can be made over that period while providing residents and businesses with the level of services they expect, Owens said.

In a preliminary voice vote, Ward 1 Alderman Andrea Maddox-Dallas, Ward 2 aldermen Harris and Cynthia Garnholz, and Mayor Linda Goldstein favored the tax proposal. Berger III and Winings voted against it, while Ward 1 Alderman Joanne Boulton could not attend Tuesday's meeting.

A final vote on the tax-rate proposal is planned Sept. 11 at City Hall.

More about the 2013 Clayton budget on Patch:

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