ST. JOHN | Despite the announced closing of the Kmart along U.S. 41 in late December, St. John officials point to other encouraging economic news for this year.
For the first time in about eight years, St. John received its final property tax disbursement for 2011 in a timely manner, said Clerk-Treasurer Sherry Sury.
After all the bills were paid, the town's general fund had a balance of $500,000. That meant less money was needed in tax anticipation warrants, a type of low-interest loan municipalities take out to tide budgets over until property tax revenues are distributed.
"We're one of the last towns to do tax anticipation warrants because of the frozen levy and tax revenues have not been coming in (from the county) on time," Sury said.
The Town Council approved $1.3 million in tax anticipation warrants for the 2012 budget. That figure was down from the $3.28 million the town originally needed, said David Austgen, Town Council attorney.
In addition, the council approved a 2 percent raise for all St. John employees for this year. Elected officials are excluded from the salary ordinance the council passed.
"It's been a while since employees have received a raise," said Mark Barenie, council vice president. "This year's budget allowed a modest increase."
That municipal budget of $7.78 million remains the same this year, unchanged since 2007.
News of Kmart's closing surprised officials, and creates both challenges and opportunities, said Michael Forbes, president of the St. John Town Council.
Town Council members have been seeking additional business investment in St. John, and the store's closing will spur that effort, Forbes said.
Residential construction permits are another indication of economic growth. The number of permits declined nationally and regionally last year. Although St. John saw a dip from 2010, more than 80 permits were issued in 2011, said Town Manager Steve Kil.
The variety of housing in St. John continues to attract new residents. In addition to single-family and multifamily homes in planned subdivisions, the town features working farms and horse stables.
Recently, the St. John Town Council added 23.4 acres to the municipality's 6.8 square miles by annexing the land known as Casboni Estates.
The front 10 acres of the land is to be sold to Pathway Church and would be the site of a new church to be built in the next three to five years.
That land borders 109th Street and will remain farmland until the church is built.
In approving the ordinance for annexing the acreage, the council also stipulated that if the church isn't built in that timeframe the zoning would revert back to commercial use.