The approvals came on 5-2 votes with council members Aimee Yentes and Laurin Hendrix voting in dissent. Yentes and Hendrix also were the lone council members to vote in support of Yentes’ proposal to maintain the current levy.
As a result of the votes, the budget was set at $988.25 million, a reduction of $4.59 million from the previous year, and the levy at $27.75 million, an increase of $1.87 million. The secondary tax rate will remain at $0.99 per $100 assessed valuation.
Yentes proposed the levy remain at $25.8 million, and Hendrix quickly moved to second the motion once he clarified with Yentes that such a move would reduce the tax rate and in theory would reduce the secondary property tax paid by Gilbert property owners.
Council Member Kathy Tilque, in her first budget vote, asked for clarification if the town did not have a debt obligation to meet with the levy. Gilbert Budget Director Kelly Pfost confirmed that was the case and that the town would have to find another way to pay the debt if the proposal passed.
Yentes said she would like to see the general fund used to pay the remaining portion of the debt service.
The debt comes from voter-approved bonds, including street bonds and one to build the town’s public safety training facility that opened this spring. Gilbert has no primary property tax, and the secondary property tax can only be used with voter approval.
After the votes and despite coming out on the losing end of them, Yentes praised Pfost’s work on the budget and openness to answering any questions, calling her one of the town’s most valued employees.
Yentes also doled out praise to Mayor Brigette Peterson for improvements she made in the budget process, inviting more transparency and inclusion of more stakeholders.
Peterson likewise thanked Yentes for bringing important points to the budget discussions, saying she had many written down for further discussion in the future.
Peterson also thanked Pfost and her team and said it was remarkable that Gilbert has been able to reduce its budget for two consecutive years because of the budget team’s work.