Bob Engel talks numbers

Bob Engel had plenty to say about Sheldon’s proposed fiscal year 2019-20 budget before approval by the city council.

SHELDON—The Sheldon City Council passed the 2019-20 fiscal year budget Wednesday, March 6, but not without vocal opposition from the public.

Four Sheldon residents spoke out again the budget, which raised the property tax from $13.86 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $15.44.

The new levy includes a 13.5-cent civic center levy to support the upkeep of the $5.3 million Crossroads Pavilion event center.

The first resident to speak out against the budget was Bob Engel.

Engel built a new property in 2004 and said his property tax rates increased 95 percent between 2006 and 2019.

He also questioned the necessity of a franchise agreement/fee with MidAmerican Energy Co., which he considers another tax increase.

“I commend each of you for your work to the city,” Engel said. “I hope I’m wrong, but when it comes to the budget, it appears, to me, that you’ve got a tough job ahead.”

Following Engel was Kerwin Sterler, who owns residential property in addition to a home in Sheldon.

He noted the O’Brien County Assessor’s Office already gave his property an increased valuation, which resulted in a $20,000 increase in taxes. Land records on Beacon back his claim.

“That tacks into about an 8 percent raise in assessed valuation, so, to me, that’s like you already got an 8 percent raise in taxes just riding that wave,” Sterler said. “Now you want to the $15.44 per $1,000 on top of that?

“I’m thinking there need to be some budget cuts done or something like that. Something’s got to happen because for the common family in town here, it’s getting kind of expensive.”

During the actual public hearing on the budget, Harv Bauman and Marv Van Riesen also spoke out against it. Van Riesen argued the city should request an extension from the state on the March 15 deadline for filing.

“There are some real concerns that I have on this,” Van Riesen said. “It appears that we have plenty of money coming in these past years; it’s clear that we have a spending problem.”

The outspokenness of the residents led to councilman Greg Geels making a motion for a special meeting either Tuesday, March 12, or Wednesday, March 13.

“I’m wondering if it would be wise — I know it’s going to put a strain on the office staff — but to wait a week to discuss this further,” Geels said. “Have we done everything we can? I feel we’ve given it due diligence, but in light of these concerns, I think maybe it would wise to have one more meeting and just see if there is anything else we can do.”

Geels motion later was unanimously voted down after a lengthy discussion by the council. Multiple council members defended the drafted budget, noted they were open during the process and had spent hours working on it.

“I don’t know if pushing it back a week is going to change anything,” said mayor pro tem Brad Hindt, who transitioned into the role earlier in the meeting.

Councilman Pete Hamill said he did not have a problem potentially postponing voting on the budget, but also wanted to emphasize how much work had already been done in crafting it.

“People need to know that we have already spent a number of hours on a couple of occasions going through all of this, but if we need to go through it some more and try and do something I don’t have a problem with that, but it’s not like this just landed on our desk,” he said.

“We’ve had two budget hearings, two budget readings and we’ve spent many hours looking at this. No, it’s not easy and it’s not going to get easy.”