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Benefactor helps city meet its budget needs

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HARTINGTON — A community benefactor has helped the city of Hartington meet its budget goals this year.

When Clifford Filips died last year he left over $170,000 to various city entities, including the library, parks, ambulance and fire department.

The Clifford Filips estate bequeathed about $38,000 to the city Park Department; $50,000 to the library; $40,000 to the ambulance; and $40,000 to the fire department. Funds were also left to the Hartington Economic Development Corporation.

Filips' donation and efforts to bring expenses more in line with revenue, prompted the city of Hartington to cut its 2021-22 budget by eight percent.

Last year, the city operated with a $4,074,794 budget. The new budget approved unanimously by the Council at Monday’s meeting, calls for a $3,763,645 budget.

The move also reduces the mill levy the city is asking from property owners.

The tax rate was at .698151 last year. This year’s tax rate dipped to .691317 — a one percent decrease.

One mill equals $1 per $1,000 of assessed value. This means that for every $100,000 of assessed valuation, property owners must pay $698.15.

This year’s city budget asks local property tax owners for $643,140 to help operate the city.

The new $3.76 million budget also benefits from increased sales tax revenue brought in by a voter-approved half-cent hike in the sales tax.

The new budget provides funds for $281,000 in capital improvements. Some of those will include: the construction of a new frisbee golf course at the Hartington Community Complex; a new irrigation system at the interior section of Felber Park south of the swimming pool; landscaping at the Felber Park Shelter House; paving of a new section of the road that runs through the park.

Mayor Mark Becker said he hopes to have all of the street that runs through the park paved over the next couple of years.

The new budget also has $10,000 in it for improvements to the road at the city cemetery.

Funds are also being allocated for the purchase of a new fire truck and a new ambulance.

The budget also includes federal COVID Relief, or Cares Act funds. So far the city has received $129,155 in Cares Act funds.

City Auditor Joseph Stump said he anticipates the city will receive an additional $200,000 from the federal stimulus program.

Prior to the meeting, Mayor Becker said the Council worked hard to stay true to the budget.

In order to keep taxes down, rates for several city services including, water, sewer, garbage and transfer station fees will need to be examined once again.

He noted the landfill the city uses raised its tipping fees by about $1,000 a month, but none of that increase is being passed on to local residents as of yet.

A comparison of rates at the landfill indicates Hartington is behind the times, Becker said.

"Something has to change when area towns and businesses are charging $5 to take a tire, and we're only charging $2.50," he said."The thing that is concerning to me is that we continue to lose money on garbage, sewer, water and recycling."

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