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Verndale raises levy, water and sewer rates

The Verndale City Council voted Tuesday night to raise its general levy, and some water and sewer rates, over the objections of some Verndale residents.

The city adopted a proposed levy of $132,466 for taxes payable in 2010, an increase of 13.04 percent over the previous year. A drop in local government aid funding from the state, coupled with an anticipated drop in administrative fines that are currently going solely to the state of Minnesota, prompted the move. However, the council pointed out it's a preliminary levy, and while it can't increase, it could go down with further budget cutting.

That was the preferred method of budget balancing of some who attended a public hearing on the levy, including former Verndale Mayor Wayne Stave, who said a challenging business environment now required the city to look to cut budgets rather than adopt a large increase in taxes.

The council also moved Tuesday night to raise water and sewer rates, and institute a required fee for the Wellhead Protection Plan. The fees will increase as follows:

• Water: base rate goes from $13.90 per month to $14.10, with a per-thousand increase from $2.50 to $2.95.

• Sewer: base rate increase from $15 per month to $15.40, with a per-thousand bump from $3.10 to $3.45.

• A new Wellhead Protection Plan fee of 75 cents per month per combined water/sewer hookup.

Council member Bruce Koppenhaver said the city's enterprise funds related to water and sewer actually had a deficit in the prior budget year, which is unacceptable by state statute. Mayor Ardith Carr explained the city raised the rates by the minimum amount possible, and plan to slowly inch up the rates rather than have one huge rate increase at some future date.

A Truth in Taxation hearing was scheduled for Verndale residents for 6 p.m. on Dec. 7 at city council chambers. The regular December council meeting will follow that hearing.