Harvard passes tax levy hike of 4.9 percent

HARVARD – The city council has passed a 4.9 percent increase to Harvard’s total tax levy.

The $2.48 million levy was approved by a 6-1 vote late last month.

“Because of the dropping in the Equalized Assessed Value of the community’s property values and because we’re capped under law on our tax rates, it is my opinion we’ll get about the same as we got last year, or maybe even less,” City Administrator Dave Nelson said.

One year ago, the city levied $2.47 million, a 4.9 percent increase, and was extended $2.36 million after adjustments. Harvard homeowners currently pay $2 in taxes per $100 in equalized assessed value to the city. The city portion accounts for about 16 percent of Harvard residents’ property tax bills.

The same levy originally had appeared on the council’s late-October agenda, but officials decided then to send it back to committee. Councilman Mike Clarke was the lone no-vote when it came back up on Nov. 26. He said that even though the city is expecting a similar extension as a year ago, he didn’t want to risk a jump in residents’ taxes.

“With rising property taxes and declining home values, I just can’t justify even raising property taxes by the smallest margin,” Clarke said.

Clarke also no-voted the raise last year. He said that property taxes – among the top priorities of community members he hears from – are in some ways out of the city’s control because of state factors, among them a broken pension system.

But he wants to see further attempts to decrease costs within the city, potentially by cutting funding to the parks and pools budgets.

“When you put those up against programs like the streets and sewer and water and police, those are the day-to-day essentials of running a city,” he said.