Dover council settles on 19.9 percent property tax hike

DOVER— City council members agreed Monday to enact a 19.9 percent property tax increase. The motion passed 6-3.

“It has been a significant challenge for staff and the council members,” City Manager Scott Koenig said.

For the average homeowner, the proposed increase in most neighborhoods is less than $1 a day, Mr. Koenig said. In some cases it’s significantly less than that, he added.

Council whittled down the original proposed 24.3 percent increase during its budget review hearings earlier this month, now holding the increase at 6 cents per $100 of assessed real estate value.

Councilman Brian Lewis asked if there is anything that can be done to reduce the increase.

“I know we need to increase the manpower of the police,” Mr. Lewis said. “Public safety is essential. I know we have to repair the infrastructure, but I know there are a couple of things we can nickel and dime to bring this tax rate down.”

Mr. Koenig said he believes council made the appropriate cuts during the budget hearings to reduce the tax increase as much as possible.

No water and sewer increases are in the new budget. But, city residents will pay more for electricity under the new budget since it calls for an average rate hike of 3 percent.

“It varies by classification,” Mr. Koenig said. “In some classifications it’s as low as 2.4 percent and some are as high as 3 or 3.4 percent, depending on which classification you’re at.”

Councilman James Hutchison said he hopes there’s an alternative moving forward.

“With the electric rate we must come up with an alternate,” Mr. Hutchison said. “I support the budget and I know that we have to do this, but we can’t continue to do what we’re doing.”

Mr. Koenig agreed. “I’m not happy that we’re proposing an increase to our commercial electric rates right now for a competitive standpoint,” he said. “Right now, today, the city of Dover has the lowest residential rates in the state.

“However, when we get into some of the commercial classifications, we’re not nearly as competitive as I think we should be. So one of the things we need to do moving forward is working with our larger customers and figure out how can we jointly and help each other.”

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