Ottumwa City Council approves lowering maximum property tax levy for 2023 fiscal year
OTTUMWA, Iowa (KYOU) - 16.655. That’s the magic number touted at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. It’s the City’s proposed maximum property tax levy, and nearly a dollar cheaper from the current fiscal year levy.
The reason behind the drop comes from trust and agency rates. The City says Ottumwa’s rate is sits among the highest in the state. They’re trying to get the rate lower and lower.
Kala Mulder, the City’s Finance Director, presented a look at the City’s current taxes, and how they compare to previous years. Overall, things are improving when compared to a few years ago. “Our valuations are going up,” Mulder said at the Council meeting. “And our tax rates are going down.”
But, she admits, it could be better. Valuations in Ottumwa rank low compared to similar-sized cities. Valuations in Ottumwa for FY23 are estimated to total $679,001,735. The next nearest city in valuations, Fort Dodge, got nearly $100 million more: $759,843,278.
It feeds into the City’s push for more housing, which will lower rates while boosting valuations. “We need more housing,” Mulder said. “[But we also] need more business and industry. And it’s a catch-22: what’s going to come first?”
The Council approved the new maximum tax levy. Mulder says they’ll try to get that number even lower as the fiscal year continues.
Council Member Marc Roe, who’s sat on the council for several years, applauded the shifts he’s seeing in Ottumwa’s finances. “We’re starting to see not only the merits of good fiscally responsibility in the community, but also this should be the beacon for us to say we need to do something different than we’ve been doing.”
New housing developments are still rare in the City, though City leaders have said they’re optimistic that the Bonita Avenue construction could bring more developers to the Ottumwa.
PIT BULL ORDINANCE
The City Administrator is asking for one thing in regards to the City’s Pit Bull ban ordinance - more time. After a fiery public hearing in January, and another member of the public speaking on Tuesday night in favor of changing the breed-specific language, the pressure is on for the City to make a decision.
While it could be some time before any proposed change is brought to the City Council, the City Administrator says they’re already taking a look. “Give us an opportunity to put this together. Something that’s going to be enforceable, and better treatment for all animals.”
FIRE DEPARTMENT STAFFING
Another firefighter will join the Ottumwa Fire Department staff, allowing the department to have three nine-person crews. That’s an improvement from the last year and a half, where the firefighters have said they’ve been overworked, and their overtime has cost the city several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Fire Chief is also applying for a federal grant which would pay for three more firefighters getting the staff back to levels from before the staffing cut in 2020.
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