Tax bill likely to go up in Riverdale

By Justin Boron

Although tax rates are likely to be kept the same, Riverdale citizens can expect their tax bills to increase by an average of about $40 this year, said Tom Pence the city's finance director.

Because of a sweeping reassessment this year, he said tax bills in Riverdale will be little higher on average, lumping them in with the county tax bills that also will go up despite no change in tax rates.

Pence said the city will send out its close to 3,000 residential tax bills around Sept. 15 or 16, right around the time the county plans to mail them.

At this point, the $40 amount is still a rough estimate, he said, and some residents property value may have actually gone down in which case they would see a decrease on their bills.

Emerging from budget discussions that exposed some of the city's costly finance practices, Pence has attempted to turn around those practices.

He told the city council Monday night that from a financial standpoint, the first month of the fiscal year was strong.

The city's operating deficit came out $87,000 less than projected, Pence said.

"Basically, the first month out of the year is in pretty good shape," he said.

Also at its Monday meeting, the City Council adopted a resolution that will allow it to preserve its reserve fund that Pence said had been battered by its past use to offset operating deficits.

"We don't want to touch (the reserve fund) any more," he said.

Pence said the anticipatory tax note passed by the council basically gives the city a line of credit that enables it to keep a positive balance with the bank until its tax revenue arrives in October and November.

Councilman Kenny Ruffin said the note was a step toward better management of the city's finances.

"We need to stop the practice of using the reserve to balance the budget," he said.

City Councilman Rick Scoggins, who dissented, said he voted against the measure because he voted against the budget as a whole and did not want to be seen as reversing his prior position.

Mayor Phaedra Graham pointed to a section of her newsletter to address questions about her opinion of the city's finances.

"Even though challenges remain in order to maintain a financially fit city, I am hopeful that sound decisions are made now and in the future to avoid any fiscal pitfalls," she says in the newsletter.

At the meeting Graham said "any action the city takes that allows responsibility and accountability for the people's money, I am in favor of."