DOVER — If everything goes according to a plan hammered out by City Council last week, Dover residents could see a 19.9 percent increase in property taxes.
Council whittled the original proposed 24.3 percent increase down to 19.9 percent during its budget review hearings last week.
For property owners, that works out to an additional 6.72 cents per $100 assessment.
But city manager Scott Koenig said the increase won’t affect every resident, as the increase will hit some properties harder than others.
For the average homeowner, the proposed increase in most neighborhoods is less than $1 a day, Mr. Koenig said, and in some cases it’s significantly less than that.
“The increase is driven by a recent reassessment,” he said. “What is happening is the evaluation (of property) is changing. As you take an average across the city, residential values went down.
“If you take an average across the city the commercial values went up. It’s very deceptive to say ‘my taxes are going up at a certain percentage.’ ”
For example, in 2010 the property value of residents living in Hidden Oaks was $195,000. In 2015 it is $213,900, so the proposed increase will call for a tax increase of $206.91.
But residents living in Mayfair will pay $47.18 less, since the value of an average property there was $158,200 in 2010 but $120,300 in 2015.
“It’s not fair to say across the board that it will affect every resident,” Mr. Koenig said, “but there are some people that may see a higher increase because their evaluation has gone up substantially and then you add on the change in tax rate. Not everyone will be treated the same.
“If someone calls and says ‘I’m mad because I’m going to see close to a 20 percent increase in my taxes, you have to really figure out where they live and find out from there,” Mr. Koenig added.
“The tax increase will hit some properties harder than others. There are some subdivisions that are going to feel the full effect of revaluation and the proposed tax increase, but not every subdivision.”
Councilman Fred Neil agreed.
“The city value assessment has fallen throughout the city,” he said. “When people read there’s going to be a tax increase it’s kind of an illusion because yes there will be one, but it’s based on your property.
“I know the numbers may be different in other neighborhoods but I know where I live, the increase is $1.61 a day. I think that’s kind of a bargain to get the city back to revenue neutral.”
Mr. Koenig said the increase will have the biggest effect on the city’s commercial properties.
“With commercial property there is an effect on the revaluation because the assessments have gone up and they’re going feel it the most,” Mr. Koenig said.
Denis McGlynn, president and CEO of Dover Downs Gaming and Entertainment and Dover Motorsports Inc., said the increase doesn’t help their bottom line, but he understands the reasons behind it.
“It’s the fairest way to raise revenue for the city,” Mr. McGlynn said. “We will end up having a $48,000 increase for the casino, but anything for more public safety I’m all for.”
In January, the council voted 7-1 to add 10 officers to the city’s police department.
Based on an estimate of $1.5 million needed to pay for the officers’ salaries, equipment and other costs, the addition is expected to cost the city an extra $4 million over the next five fiscal years.
Nine additional cadets will be added as well.
Mr. Koenig said adding more funding to public service was essential.
“In some big cities, when they start to lose control of crime and infrastructure, costs skyrocket,” Mr. Koenig.
“The safety of our citizens is a priority and I think we addressed that by adding the necessary officers to ensure our residents are safe,” he said.
Mr. Koenig said his motivation in requesting “a significant tax increase” was to stabilize the general fund and city services, but also “in the long term to both maintain and improve property values and quality of life across the city.”
The first ordinances to enact the increases will be read during tonight’s council meeting; the final adoption will be read June 22.
Originally the proposed increase called for an 8 cents per $100 tax increase, but after council made some cuts through a series of ordinances during the review hearings, the increase was held at 6 cents per $100 of assessed value. If the proposed increase passes, the property tax rate will go from 33.78 cents per $100 of assessed real estate value to 39.79 cents.
During Wednesday night’s meeting Councilman David Anderson proposed an alternative budget be presented that would not increase taxes by more than 5.5 cents, but the motion failed 6-2.
Mr. Anderson aims to voice his opinion during tonight’s council meeting to decrease the amount residents have to pay.
“It’s one cent out of a dollar,” Mr. Anderson said. “I don’t know how hard it is to make that happen. But I have some ideas because there’s a lot of ways to make that happen.”
Tonight’s meeting starts at 7:30 in Council Chambers at Dover City Hall, 15 Loockerman Plaza.