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City of St. Clair adopts fiscal year 2020-2021 budget

By Jim Bloch

The city of St. Clair has adopted an overall budget that projects revenues of $10,794,715 and expenditures of $11,211,875 for fiscal year 2020-2021. The budget includes a general fund with revenues of $3,930,472 and expenditures of $3,779,180.

The cities around the state that are now adopting new budgets have fiscal years beginning July 1. St. Clair’s fiscal year does not begin until Oct. 1. City Superintendent Warren Rothe said that St. Clair may be the only city in the state with such a long lag between adopting the budget and starting the fiscal year. With the novel coronavirus wreaking havoc on the economy, the lag period injects significant uncertainty into the city’s economic projections. Expect future scheduling changes in the budget approval process, Rothe said.

The city council held a public hearing on the budget on May 18 and unanimously adopted it on June 1.

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“There have been no changes to any of the dollar amounts or anything,” said Rothe on June 1. “This resolution also adopts the fee schedule.”

The schedule includes fees for everything from garbage bags, a voter registration list and vendor permits to gravesites, water rates and golfing at Pine Shores Golf Course.

The city’s total millage rate will be 16.5378, unchanged from last year; homeowners will pay $16.54 per $1,000 of taxable value in their property —  the taxable value is about 50 percent of a home’s market value. 

Of the total, 13.0476 is operating millage, 2.4902 is road millage, and 1.0 is pension millage. 

The city receives 43 cents of every tax dollar, Rothe said. Schools and the county get the rest. Rothe projects property tax revenue to be $3,516,230. The city collected a high of $4,023,212 in 2007, just before the crash of the housing market and the stock market, and a low of $3, 041,574 in 2014.

New zoning regulations

The budget included a new, simplified schedule for zoning fees: $250 for special land use permits; $400 for site plan reviews; $400 for rezoning permits; $600 for planned unit development requests; $600 for platted subdivisions and site condominiums; $250 for the zoning board of appeals; and $350 for special meetings.

The budget also included a new escrow fund for complicated zoning requests, which council adopted after adopting the budget.

The resolution mandated a minimum funding for an escrow account of $1,500. The money will cover such extra services as special meetings, public notices of such meetings, legal reviews, city planning, engineering, traffic studies and environmental studies..

“When a developer comes to the planning commission or the ZBA, the city often obtains the services of the city attorney, the city engineer or city planner,” said Rothe. “They bill the city by the hour for their review costs. Applicants are now currently responsible for those costs. What’s different is that this new policy would require the applicant to establish an escrow account with the city. The city would then, as it hires consultants, draw from that escrow account.”

The account balance may not fall below $500. As it approaches that amount, the applicant will be required to deposit more money in$500 increments. At the end of the review process, regardless of whether request is approved or denied, whatever money is left in the escrow account will be returned to the applicant.

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