by Dennis Dalman
A preliminary budget for 2015 was approved on a 3-2 vote by the Sartell City Council at its Sept. 8 meeting.
The budget calls for a 7-percent increase (with a 2.4-percent levy increase), which represents $75,000 in cuts and transfers compared with the preliminary budget drawn up earlier, at an Aug. 11 budget meeting. The total budget reductions are $240,000 compared to a preliminary budget drawn up in July.
If this preliminary budget becomes final in December, Sartell City Administrator Mary Degiovanni said the levy to support that budget would translate into an estimated $14-$32 more per year in taxes for homeowners whose homes are valued between the range of $150,000 to $350,000; and $14 to $175 higher for multi-family and commercial buildings valued up to $1 million. That estimate could change based on new valuation rates. Another factor is tax-capacity rates for Sartell have not yet been announced by the state.
The amount of the preliminary budget is $6,191,865. The amount for the general fund in that budget is $4,315,400. The preliminary levy toward that budget amount is $5,081,453.
The budget includes debt service for bonds issued in 2007, 2008 and 2009 for a total of $743,000 for debt service.
At their Sept. 8 meeting, council members decided to amend the budget by restoring city dues for memberships in both the League of Greater Minnesota Cities and the St. Cloud Greater Development Corp. Council members Amy Braig-Lindstrom, Steve Hennes and David Peterson all said they think those dues (a total of $25,000) should be restored to the budget for 2015.
Degiovanni noted the preliminary budget is just that – preliminary. It could be subject to further cuts and/or additions, depending on the council’s wishes. A final budget will be adopted by the council in December.
Braig-Lindstrom said she is concerned about budget cuts because Sartell needs to get back to its condition “before the bubble burst” – meaning a long recession and repeated state cuts to local government aid. Braig-Lindstrom told her colleagues she worries about a lack of funding for infrastructure projects and safety. There is not enough staff, she said, to keep up with problems presented by weeds, storm-water drainage, park needs and police work.
Degiovanni said city staff and she herself were aware of how there is a divided feeling on the council between cutting the budget and increasing it. In a memo to the council, Degiovanni stated the proposed budget tries to balance those two council attitudes.
“There are still some tough decisions to make,” she said, noting if the council decides to fund some things, it will have to cut other things.
She noted the budget calls for an increase in $180,000 for public-safety needs, $80,000 more for public works (mainly for seal-coating projects) and $139,000 more for capital funding.