City council adopts preliminary levy showing 9.89% increase
Various cuts to funding requests were made in an attempt to balance the budget.
WADENA — The Wadena City Council approved a preliminary 2023 general fund tax levy, which showed a 9.89% increase over the 2022 budget. The increase equates to about $42,000 in added levy dollars, largely due to new bond payments for the new Wadena Library.
The final levy can go down, but not up when approved in December.
By comparing 2022 to 2023, revenues were down $72,007 year-to-year. Expenditures are down $29,982. Noteworthy changes was that there was a decrease of $181,000 in capital purchases. That includes cutting requests of $170,484 down to $10,000 for heavy machinery funds and cutting park improvements down to $15,000 from a $55,000 request.
The general fund total is $467,025. The city has a total bonded indebtedness of $891,475.43, for a total property tax levy of $1,358,500.43.
One of the biggest additions to the expenses in 2023 is the library bond. Council members repeatedly shared the importance of the passing of a quarter percent sales tax on goods bought in Wadena. That’s a question that will be on the November ballot. If it passes, funds from that sales tax would be used to pay down the library bond and it’s estimated that the income could cover the cost of the levy increase, effectively creating a 0% levy increase in 2023.
Mayor George Deiss explained that the increased tax levy equates to about $10 extra in taxes per person in Wadena. But if the sales tax covered the cost, a large amount of people from outside of the city would pay for the bond every time they buy goods in Wadena. So would any Wadena residents that buy goods. The idea is that the cost is spread out across a wider region with the sales tax rather than relying on the levy dollars.
Over the course of 13 years, the city is showing an average increase of about 9.83% to the levy, according to figures presented by city administrator Kim Schroeder. But in that same time frame the levy has increased from $113,496 to $467,025.
The city started pairing down the budget in early September when it was determined there was a $696,332 shortfall. By Tuesday, Sept. 27, various cuts and adjustments brought that shortfall down to $394,641.
That was expected to be cut further with increases to revenue sources such as the ad valorem (property) tax, an increase in fire department emergency call revenue and an increase in camping fees. Schroeder spoke specifically about the cuts to funding requests when she shared that a request for a transfer of $150,000 to the wellness center was cut down by $25,000. She shared that the cut was made because cuts need to be felt across the board to keep spending increases down. She added that if the full funds are needed, the wellness center needs to come up with a way to make that money in revenue.
City councilman Wade Miller agreed saying, “If one tightens their belt, everyone tightens their belt.”
In other actions, the council approved hiring Jennifer Page Stewart for a new part-time billing clerk/administrative assistant/customer service position. Three applications were received. One was not accepted as it was incomplete. She is hired at a starting pay of $18.91, moving to $19.25 in the new year.