A City Council panel voted Tuesday to set aside unspent funds from 2012 to help ensure a zero percent property tax levy in 2014.

The vote came during a budget committee meeting focused on allocating $9.1 million in rollover funds from the 2012 budget. That's money that was given to city departments, but never expended.

The committee voted to direct $7 million of the total rollover toward the goal of hitting a zero percent levy increase in 2014.

"I'm glad we have the property tax stabilization account that we put into place for just a moment as this, knowing that putting aside one-time dollars for future tax stabilization would be crucial," said council member Betsy Hodges, who is running for mayor.

Hodges, the council's budget chair, said at the mayoral debate on Wednesday that it was equivalent to a 2.5 percent reduction in potential property tax increases.

Council Member Gary Schiff, who sits on the budget committee and is running for mayor, also touted the set-aside during the mayoral debate.

The city last imposed a zero percent levy increase in 2012. The 2013 levy increase was 1.7 percent. Mayor R.T. Rbak faced a taxpayer revolt in 2010 when he tried to impose a 7.5 percent hike for 2011 -- it was scaled back to 4.7.

During the Rybak administration, the amount of the city's general fund budget derived from property taxes has risen from 29 percent to 46 percent -- partly because of state aid cuts.

Tuesday's move is subject to full council approval, which is expected on Friday morning.

Photo: Resident Kris Broberg confronts Rybak outside City Hall in 2010 during a protest over a proposed property tax hike. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii)