Residential growth and urban sprawl a very good thing when it comes to balancing city budget

Urban sprawl may have a negative connotation among the general public, but it is easy to understand why Bettendorf city officials love the spreading residential subdivisions filling up former cornfields north of 53rd Avenue.

The steady growth of new homes in north Bettendorf and Pleasant Valley – plus the escalating value of existing residential property in the city – generate healthy annual increases for city coffers to fund the ever-increasing cost of additional employees, higher salaries, health and retirement benefits and debt service.

That's why the city can cover a projected $1.46 million increase in operating expenses next fiscal year without having to hike the current tax rate of $12.55 per $1,000 assessed value.

It's also one reason why Bettendorf can boast a combined city and school tax bill far lower than residents in Davenport and the other Illinois Quad Cities.

The proposed $100-million city budget – scheduled for public hearing 6:30 p.m. Thursday (2/18) – projects higher tax revenue from increased assessments on existing residential housing ($760,000), new residential homes ($488,000), new commercial developments ($273,000), which more than offset lower assessments on existing commercial buildings.

Those higher revenues would pay for increased debt payments ($554,000), three new full-time employees and six new part-time positions ($466,000), a contracted forester position ($30,000), a part-time downtown business staff person ($30,000), expansion of hours and staff for police records ($37,000) and more staff hours for code enforcement ($15,000).

The proposed budget also would fund some ambitious capital projects, including the long-discussed Town Square block along State Street, redevelopment of the land now occupied by the Twin Bridges Motel, work on an unspecified "major river project," plus additional downtown land acquisition, all funded to the tune of $5.5 million from last year's and the coming year's downtown/riverfront capital allocation.

Also listed in the capital improvement plan is $1 million for admittedly undefined "winter recreation" projects.

City Administrator Decker Ploehn called the hefty allocation to so-called winter recreation a "placeholder," created after discussions with aldermen about such things as "an outdoor refrigerated ice rink, snow grooming sled runs or cross country trails, or an ice climbing wall or any combination thereof."

Fourth Ward Alderman Greg Adamson pushed for outdoor winter recreation amenities during his time on the city park board and has continued to lobby for winter recreation activities in his alderman role.

Single stream recycling will begin April 1, necessitating a 4 percent increase in solid waste fees (with annual increases of 4 to 5 percent for the coming five years) to pay for new trucks and carts associated with the program.

Storm water fees would increase 10 percent for the coming fiscal year, while sewer rates would go up 8 percent under the proposed budget.

Bottomline, the higher property taxes (from higher assessments) together with higher fees for sewer, storm water and garbage collection will mean the owner of a house valued at $177,000 will see a yearly increase of $76.41 – a 4.8 percent hike – to $1,656.

CLICK HERE to download full budget book. (The file is sizable, 37 MB, and may take a minutes or two to download).

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