HANNIBAL — The Hannibal Town Board voted this week to approve the 2021 town budget, which carries a slight tax increase.
The $1.3 million spending plan proposed by Town Supervisor Floyd Calkins was not passed unanimously, but with a three-fourths majority vote on Wednesday. Former town supervisor and councilwoman Virginia Wilbur was the only board member to vote against the budget. Voting in favor of the budget were Calkins and board members Richard Shoults and Brenda Wilson.
According to Calkins, the approved 2021 budget has a tax rate of $4.15 per $1,000 of assessed value, compared to the 2020 budget’s rate of $3.94 per $1,000.
For 2021, for a property assessed at $100,000 the owner will pay $415 in town property taxes.
The budget prompted a discussion among the board members about the increased tax rate.
“I don’t think this is a good time to be doing this, especially with everything going on,” Wilbur said, citing COVID impacts on the community.
The increase in the property tax rate is still lower than the town’s tax rate from 2011 through 2017, according to historical tax rate data provided by Calkins.
Board members expressed concerns about a tax increase in light of what COVID-19 restrictions have done to local businesses.
“Taxes should not be raised at this time,” Shoults said. “The problem I have is that everything started opening up, so I didn’t have a problem with (the budget earlier this year), but now that everything is starting to close down again, that’s where my main concern is.”
Calkins explained to the board that the town taxes had to increase because of the impacts of COVID-19 on the community, and less funding from the state.
“The reduction in aid and state funding — they took 20 percent from us. The (town) court has gone from bringing in $30,000 to $8,000… a lot of our revenue is down, and we were already at a low fund balance,” Calkins said.
The budget in total is $1,353,158, with estimated revenues of $732,839. The budget calls for the use of $45,319 in fund balance, or savings from previous years, leaving $575,000 to be raised by property taxes.
“We hadn’t had a tax increase in several years, and unfortunately, expenditures continue to go up… The decision to pass the budget was in the best interests of the town,” Calkins told The Palladium-Times in an email Thursday.
The only change made to the budget at Wednesday’s meeting was approving an amendment for an increase in the fire protection contract with the Hannibal Fire Company.
The request for the increase came when Hannibal Fire Company Chief Carl Emmons Jr. spoke at the Nov. 4 public hearing.
“Your 1.3 percent budget increase for us is not going to suffice,” Emmons Jr. said at the Nov. 4 public hearing. He said that emergency services needed more funding for equipment and resources during COVID.
“Across the board, we are seeing cuts from state and local funding. But we are on the front lines of this. Volunteers are risking their lives, health, and family health to deal with it,” Emmons Jr. said.