PALMER – The Palmer City Council approved the city’s 2013-2014 budget and tax rate with two motions that passed. There were no speakers during the public hearing or comments from the council.

The first ordinance that was unanimously approved was the 2013-2014 fiscal year budget that will take effect Oct. 1. As approved the general funds expenditures are $2,066,000 with the water and sewer budget expenditure budget being $1,438,000.

“There will be no increase in the tax rate for the upcoming year,” City Administrator Doug Young said.

The council approved a city tax rate of $0.6895 per $100 of property valuation.

Included in the budget were scheduled pay increases for city employees. The council unanimously approved a motion to allow the mayor to sign a 2 percent salary increase across the board for city employees.

In addition to the across the board increase, employees will also be eligible for a merit increase up to 2 percent.

“The merit increases are awarded by the employees supervisor and based on their performance,” Young said.

The monthly council meeting was held jointly with the Palmer Economic Development Corporation (ECD).

Presenting the Economic Development Corporation annual report was ECD President Mark Varsel.

“One of our major accomplishments during 2013 was re-establishing our tax exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service,” Varsel said. Varsel continued by saying the ECD completed the downtown sidewalk project that was scheduled for 2012.

“Presently we have no new projects to recommend to the city,” Varsel said.

He then advised the council there is a $40,000 balance in the account.

“We would like to leave it in the bank and save for future projects,” Varsel said.

Members of the council discussed the possibilities of leasing or purchasing the property across the street at 108 Jefferson as a possibility for future city use.

“We have out grown this building. The court is standing room only with jurors having to wait outside in the heat. When the jurors need to go in to deliberation, Doug (the City’s Administrator) is chased out of his office,” Mayor Kenneth Bateman told the council.

“The property owner came to us making us an offer to lease or outright purchase the building across the street.” Bateman said.

The council discussed many concerns over the cost to purchase the building and the cost to renovate. The condition of the old building was also a concern.

“This is a chance for us to stay in downtown. If we did build another city hall it possibly would be out of the downtown area. Then the downtown area would be like a ghost town,” Bateman said.

Council member Dianne Drewery supported Bateman’s desire to keep the city hall in the downtown area.    

Several times, Bateman asked what the council’s pleasure was or for a motion for the mayor and staff to proceed with counter offers for the owner or to further study the cost to relocate the city hall to the building.

The council failed to make a motion or give any direction for further studies.