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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Newport City Council talks property tax cut
Members of the Newport Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting Tuesday evening received a good audit report. Auditor Frank McDaniel told the council "we did not note any deficiencies in internal controls over financial reporting and compliance." He said city assets have moved from $30 million last year to more than $33 million currently. Alderman Jeff Fancher asked McDaniel to summarize the financial status of the city, and in response, the auditor said the city is more financially secure than it was three years ago when the current council was elected. He did suggest that city official consider the establishment of a "rainy day fund" in case of a financial emergency. Three years ago the city was borrowing $600,000 every year on tax anticipation notes, to finance operations till new taxes came in. And so the body instituted a $1.00 property tax increase to address the shortfall and address other capital needs. Fancher and Vice-Mayor Mike Proffitt said the city now is seeing the results of the sacrifices made by taxpayers with the tax increase. And City Manager James Finchum suggested its time for a rollback of the tax rate. He said he has discussed that issue with McDaniel. "We pledged at the very beginning when we proposed a tax increase. We said give us three years to get our feet. So we asked him what he was comfortable with as far as a decrease, and we decided on a 25 cent decrease". Finchum said such a decrease would still leave the city financially stable. "We don't want to have to increase taxes again in a few years. That wouldn't be fair to the taxpayers and would make it look like we don't know what we are doing." And Fancher reminded the council that a number of projects are currently underway and so the city needs a higher cash fund. The body also agreed to pay off a $237,000 note that was used to build the sanitary transfer station, but another $178,000 loan is still owed. The council and representatives of the Friends Animal Shelter had another discussion regarding funding of the shelter, but did not reach a consensus. They did agree however to continued dialogue. Glenn Ray of Newport Utilities reported the new fiber network development is on track. The council then agreed to a franchise allowing for the hanging of lines throughout the city. Comcast and ATT already have similar franchises. The council was told that Newport is the 23rd. city in the country to get a high-speed fiber network. Raymond Anthony offered to purchase the city-owned building on North Street at Blazer Street, and the council voted to sell the property for $5,000. The council was told the building will need much work. Anthony reportedly wants the structure for a daycare center, but the council was told the street corner of the property may not be blocked. In other action; Dennis Thornton was re-appointed to the Newport Beer Board, and Finchum reported that four concerts will be offered as part of the Rhythm on the River concert series downtown this summer.

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

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