City council cuts $119,000 from '08 levy

Wadena City Council voted to cut $119,000 from its 2008 levy after a special budget meeting on Nov. 21. The purpose of the meeting was to review the 2008 general fund budget and look for ways to help soften the levy increase for taxpayers. The co...

Wadena City Council voted to cut $119,000 from its 2008 levy after a special budget meeting on Nov. 21.

The purpose of the meeting was to review the 2008 general fund budget and look for ways to help soften the levy increase for taxpayers.

The council did soften the levy increase after deciding to cut $64,000 that was set aside for Depot funding, $20,000 for the purchase of property near the Wadena City Library and $35,000 toward the purchase of a dump truck for the street department.

The city's 2008 preliminary levy, which was passed in September at $883,927, was about a 25 percent increase from the 2007 levy, which was $703,000. After the cuts that were approved on Nov. 21, the property tax levy is $764,927.

Before the council dug into the budget at the meeting, City Administrator Brad Swenson reiterated the reason for the levy increase.


"We sold bonds in 2006 to finance a street project and we sold bonds in 2007 to finance the police and fire hall remodeling and addition," he said.

Swenson also provided background for the council and his opinion about the levy increase.

He reminded the council that when the bonds were sold, everyone knew it would have an impact on the taxpayers at some point.

"Nobody went into those things looking at cutting services or capital," he said.

He said he was not so sure the levy should be cut but said it is ultimately a council decision.

"If you don't increase the levy, you're pretty much saying that we're going to quit growing, in my opinion," Swenson said. "We're going to quit doing projects because we can't borrow money, we can't afford more taxes."

Mayor Wayne Wolden asked the council how much money it wanted to trim from the budget.

"We are here to spend the taxpayers' dollars as judiciously as possible," said Councilwoman Jeanette Baymler.


The council reached a consensus to try to trim between $90,000 and $120,000 from the budget at the meeting.

Wolden mentioned local government aid from the state and thought it would be increased next year. Councilman Pete Phillips also said he thought LGA would come back and said one-time cuts to the city budget could work. Pierce wondered how LGA would change with the same players working at the state level.

Councilwoman Kay Browne said she was concerned about the long-term financial health of the city. She wondered how the council could continue to cut money each year in order to pay for the bonds.

"There's going to be a bubble once in a while for bonding for projects," she said.

Pierce was concerned about the future infrastructure projects that will require significant bonding.

"Be tough on these budgets now," he said.

Phillips proposed $176,000 in possible cuts to discuss at the meeting.

He made a motion to correct a previous motion from a council meeting on Oct. 17 where the council decided to retain a police officer and public works employee.


Phillips thought his motion was to hire the police officer and street department positions if $64,000 was taken away from the depot project. Others thought his motion was to just hire the police officer and street department positions.

"I wouldn't have allocated hiring the police officer if we wouldn't have cut money," Phillips said at the Nov. 21 meeting.

He proposed a new motion: "I move that the $64,000 in the 2007 budget to repair the city parking lot adjacent to Burlington Northern Park and the depot be removed. This eliminates all city funding to the BN Depot parking lot project."

He said it would be a one-time cut and the council could look at budgeting for the parking lot again in 2009.

Baymler said she wanted to discuss the cost difference between having the parking lot be concrete versus blacktop. An estimate she received said it would cost $69,850 for concrete or $14,475 for blacktop.

Browne received information from Wadena County Engineer Joel Ulring that said bituminous, or blacktop, would be about half the cost of concrete, but concrete would last twice as long.

"The motion is to cut $64,000 and I don't think it makes any difference whether it's bituminous or concrete right now. It's the dollar amount," Pierce said.

The Wadena Parks Advisory Board asked Browne to present a list of reasons it thinks the Depot square improvements project scheduled for 2007-08 should stay on schedule. The reasons included the money already being identified in the city budget and a concern that momentum might be lost and volunteers could give up helping.


The motion to cut the $64,000 carried 4-1, with Browne dissenting.

The council discussed other budget items and decided to cut $20,000 from the Rousslang property (the former Carter Oil) by the Wadena City Library. A proposal was made to put money toward the property in case the library would be interested in expanding in the future. The council decided to hold off for 2008.

Another budget item that was cut was $35,000 toward a dump truck for the street department. The street department has four dump trucks and three are less than 15 years old, Swenson said. The dump truck the $35,000 would be for is more than 20 years old, he said. But, he has been told it's sort of used as a spare truck. It's also not scheduled to be replaced until next year.

With the levy reduced by $119,000, the council adjourned.

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