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Norway keeps tax rate flat

No change in utility rates; paving scheduled for Summit Road and Pearney Lane

Norway officials have proposed a fiscal year 2020-2021 budget that will keep the city’s tax and utility rates the same.

Property owners would continue to pay 16.3942 mills, or $16.39 per $1,000 of taxable value, for the city’s share of their local tax bills.

The proposed 2020-21 budget, which will come back to the city council for final consideration June 15, projects $12,553,921 in total revenues from all 12 city funding areas and $12,335,765 in expenditures, for a surplus of $218,156.

General fund spending is estimated at $3,013,759, which is roughly $53,000 more than the current $2.96 million. General fund revenues for 2020-21 are anticipated to be about $2.92 million, which is down $48,144 — or 1.6% — from $2.97 million in the current budget and will be $90,590 less than expenditures.

The city will need to make a $91,000 fund equity transfer to cover the difference, City Manager Ray Anderson said. Other budget adjustments may be needed as well if the state Legislature cuts the amount of shared revenue to municipalities due to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two roads in Norway are slated for work this year: asphalt overlays on the entirety of Summit Road and on the remainder of Pearney Lane.

Rates for the city’s electric utility, water, sewer and cable television services all will be unchanged for the next year, Anderson said.

In other business, the Norway City Council on Monday:

— Affirmed the city will have its annual fireworks show for Independence Day.

— Gave a chilly response to Anderson’s report on the Work Share program that would allow the city to reduce workers’ hours each week over the next two months, making them eligible for $600 in weekly unemployment benefits under the federal CARES Act. By idling office staff one day a week on a staggered basis, the city could maintain services while saving about $10,000 in labor costs, Anderson said, adding it’s about the only such program available to local municipalities and school districts.

The Iron Mountain council Monday authorized starting the program. Anderson said he expects the school districts will look at it as well.

While they appreciated Anderson providing the information, Mayor Candy Brew and council members Scott Popp and Jeff Muraro all had reservations about the program, reasoning it still was tax money. “This isn’t free money, any way you look at it,” Muraro said.

— Set up a grant agreement with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy — or EGLE — for establishing an electric vehicle charging station on Main Street in the city’s downtown. The grant provides about $33,000, or approximately one-third of the roughly $99,000 cost — the actual amount could be closer to $80,000 — with the city and electric utility each picking up the other two-thirds.

Other Upper Peninsula municipalities setting up a charging station include Crystal Falls and L’Anse; Florence, Wis., also has a site. Having a station could persuade visitors to stop and spend time in shops or restaurants during the estimated 30 minutes it takes to recharge.

— Approved spending up to $5,789.41 on replacement parts for the JCB front-end loader from Road Machinery & Supplies Company of Negaunee, which had the low bid from three submitted.

— Authorized paying $3,808.40 for two security cameras to be set up at the compost site, which has seen dumping of improper items, such as lumber with nails. The council also instructed city staff to develop an ordinance for the next meeting for enforcement with a hefty fine.

The Norway City Hall will reopen to the public at 8 a.m. Monday, after being closed to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

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