Sterling proposed tax levy hike at 18.76 percent

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Increases to police and fire pension funds have property owners in Sterling looking at a 18.76 percent tax levy increase.

Mayor Skip Lee says the city of 15,000 has no other choice. Sterling City Council unanimously gave preliminary approval to the tax hike last Monday. That increase would cost the owner of a $100,000 home around an additional $120 per year.

"This whole thing comes due to a number of bad storms that hit at once," says Mayor Lee.

First, the state is talking about implementing a two year property tax freeze in the near future. City officials say they want to get ahead of that. And, they say, that means taxes can't gradually increase.

In addition, a new law requires cities to fund at least 90 percent of pensions funding by 2040. If that doesn't happen, the city won't get some state funding. Sterling would come up $500,000 short.

"That means few roads done, that means the sewer plant might not be maintained as it should. We could have cut backs in fire and police which impacts public safety," says Mayor Lee.

So instead of waiting to see what state officials do, Sterling officials say they are being proactive. And in the meantime, it's going to take some understanding and getting used to.

"Instead of steak, maybe have hamburger. Instead of Kraft Mac and Cheese, maybe have the store brand," says 4th Ward Alderman Joe Martin.