Ephraim Adds Six Cents to Tax Rate

Despite continued concern from Ephraim residents about how the village is going to pay for the upcoming streetscape project, nothing was said about a slight increase to the village tax rate at its Nov. 14 meeting.

The 2018 budget passed by the village board includes an increase in the tax rate from $2.86 per $1,000 of assessed value to $2.92. The increase does not pay for the upcoming streetscape project, which the village will likely bond for in the future.

The tax increase is due to three things, according to village administrator Brent Bristol:  the burial of utility lines along the Cherry Street steps, increasing employee health insurance premiums and a change to an employee’s health insurance plan.

The village added $1.8 million in net new construction through Aug. 9, 2017, a 0.54 percent increase from the 2016 equalized value. That helped offset a portion of the village’s increase in the tax rate.

The board also got the ball rolling on what will be a multi-million dollar infrastructure project.

Ken Nelson, Plan Commission member and engineering consultant, will chair a new committee to consider costs and recommend streetscape projects to the village board.

“I think we are very lucky to have Ken Nelson offer to chair a subcommittee that would be responsible for writing the RFPs [request for proposal] for the part of streetscape that we have already approved,” said village board president Mike McCutcheon.

Nelson’s subcommittee will also explore cost estimates for streetscape projects that have not yet been approved, including replacement of streetlights, village-wide stormwater abatement, green space in front of the village hall and burial of utility lines.

Village board member Paul Roppuld was charged with reviewing RFPs and any contracts between the village and another party for work on the streetscape project.

“My role in this thing is not to tell anybody what they ought to be doing,” Roppuld said. “My role in this thing is simply to protect the interest of the Village of Ephraim.”

Although the village has used the engineering firm AECOM for most of its project planning so far, they will send out an RFP.

Board member Cindy Nelson supported the general search for an engineering firm, but did see an advantage to using the firm that the village has contracted with for the past few years.

“I think we have to move on this very fast because the benefit of AECOM means that we can get started,” said Nelson. “My concern is this timeline.”

The RFP will be for a reconstruction of the highway between the village beach and the old fire station, including sidewalks, curb, gutter and stormwater abatement. The cost is estimated at $2.1 million. The village expects to absorb that cost without increasing the tax rate after it retires its current debt service in 2019.

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