CLINTON — Last week, Clinton City Council members thought providing relief for escalating sewer bills was a good idea, but news Wednesday that property tax bills could also jump considerably next year has them second guessing.

The question before council members is should the city use money generated from the one cent local option sales tax to provide extra relief for property taxes or help with sewer bills that are expected to increase with the construction of a new $66 million wastewater treatment plant?

For now, that question remains unanswered and a lot of variables still exist that could affect the outcome.

Ultimately, Clinton’s citizens will have the final say but what the council decides will shape the outcome.

The question will be placed on the ballot in November about how residents want to spend the $3 million generated from the tax. If residents reject the new plan proposed by the council, the funding would remain split 50/50 for property tax relief and storm sewer construction.

The Committee of the Whole also has considered using money for storm sewer construction to finance sanitary, wastewater treatment and street repairs.

City Finance Director Debbie Neels informed the City Services Committee on Wednesday that in order to pay off the city’s debt obligations next year a 68 cent hike per $1,000 in assessed property value was in store. That number could jump to $1.43 with the addition of $4.6 million in bonding the council approved last month.

Several council members have also discussed bonding for more than $4.6 million to pay for a growing list of street repairs because the interest rate on loans is lower than normal.

“If we don’t bond for them now, we’re going to have to bond for them in the future,” said First Ward Councilman Bob Soesbe.

But that idea encountered hesitation from several members who didn’t want property tax bills to soar.

Last year, the city reduced its property tax rate 11 cents but boosts from the county, community college and local schools made for a $60 increase for people living in homes located in the Clinton School District whose property value is assessed at $100,000. A $1.43 hike to that could mean a $124 increase on people’s bills next year.

In addition to property taxes, in December, Clinton officials approved a plan to hike the city's residential sewer rate from 4.86 per 100 cubic feet per month to $6.79 in four increments ending July 1, 2011, a total increase of 39.7 percent.

The City Services Committee is scheduled to debate the issue next Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” said Clinton Mayor Rodger Holm.

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