KEARNEY — The 2019-20 budget approved Tuesday by the Kearney City Council includes a variety of fee increases Kearney residents pay for city services.

The fees will support a variety of city functions, including water, sewer and trash collection, all of which will be more costly beginning Oct. 1.

A sampling of the fee increases approved Tuesday by the City Council:

- Solid waste collection: 3 percent increase based on a cost of service rate study;

- Wastewater: 3 percent increase based on a rate study; and,

- Water: 3 percent increase based on a rate study.

The fees are among a variety of changes built into the 2020 city budget to address stagnant and decreasing revenue from the city of Kearney’s 1.5 percent municipal sales tax. The 2020 budget anticipates sales tax revenues of $12,120,133, but that’s down $296,721 compared to the $12,416,854 collected in 2018.

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“We’ve known for years we would reach this point with sales taxes,” said Mayor Stan Clouse, who was responding to observations by Marvin Dawes, who was the only citizen to present questions during the City Council’s annual budget hearing on Tuesday.

“Someday there’s going to be a day of reckoning,” Dawes said. “Are we making priorities how we spend the money?”

Noting the cracking and settling of South Railroad Street and Central Avenue in south Kearney, Dawes suggested there may be a better use for concrete than to build parking for a neighborhood park in north Kearney’s Fountain Hills Subdivision.

Dawes also said maintaining streets, such as sealing cracks with tar, would extend their lives.

City Manager Michael Morgan and Director of Public Works Rod Wiederspan said it is unknown what’s causing Central Avenue to fail in south Kearney, but Wiederspan will order core sampling to find out.

Director of Finance Wendell Wessels said in an interview last week that to address the sagging sales tax collections, more than $800,000 in spending was cut from the preliminary budget. In addition to tightening its belt, the city will boost its municipal property tax by increasing the 13.7 cent levy from this year to 14.9 cents in 2020. The increase means the owner of a $200,000 home will pay $298 in city property taxes, or about $22 more than in 2019.

Among revenue sources, fees and charges for services account for more than 29 percent of the city’s revenues. Taxes account for almost 25 percent of the city’s revenues.

The 2020 budget includes other changes to boost revenue. These changes were approved Tuesday:

- Administration: Cable occupation tax increased from 5 percent to 5.5 percent; natural gas occupation tax increased from .0400 to .0450 cents per therm

- Police: Towing charge increased from $100/$200 to actual cost

- Library: Added various fees for Makerspace

- Storm Water Utility: Residential monthly fee increased from $1 to $2

- Non-residential monthly fee increased from $3 to $6

- Airport: Agriculture land cash rents adjusted

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