Is levy hike a one-time thing, or the new norm?

The Fairmont City Council on Monday approved a 2018 budget and property tax levy, with the levy rising a whopping 12 percent. On the face of it, such an increase is troubling. Beneath the surface, things might be seen in a different light.

There are some big capital improvement projects in the budget next year. These include $225,000 to replace the Pioneer Bridge, $150,000 for the handicap-accessible playground proposed for Gomsrud Park, $83,000 for slides at the Aquatic Park and $30,000 for the Winnebago Avenue Sports Complex, among others. Some of these big-ticket items will not appear as an expense again for decades. So one can argue the city is making some investments that will cost money today, but provide benefits for years to come.

The follow-up question is whether these one-time expenses are going to be replaced by other big one-time expenses in 2019 and beyond. If so, we think taxpayers are going to want to know where the city can prioritize, or if major capital costs (or maintenance costs) are going to get out of control — as in 12 percent levy hikes out of control.