Cities around the county are beginning to consider what their financial situation for 2023 will look like. According to Minnesota statute, cities must present their preliminary budgets to the county by Sept. 30, having discretion to lower taxes between then and the end of the year, but not raise them. With many cities wrapping up their council meetings for the month, approval of budget drafts are on everyone’s mind.
The city of Janesville was in an uncomfortable position at its Aug. 22 meeting, as City Administrator Clinton Rogers laid out the problem with the city’s levy.
“If we keep everything as is right now, we’re looking at a 22% increase in the tax levy,” Rogers said, pointing to the city’s debt service, vehicle capital and overall budget as areas of increase. “I would not want to present that to the public.”
At the end of that discussion, the councilors present at the meeting requested Rogers draft a budget with a tax levy ay around a 12% to 15% increase, a range which Rogers shot right in the middle of.
“I was able to lower it to 13.3%. I do know that, at our last meeting, the council asked me to aim in between 12% and 15%, and I’m just going to say that 1% of our levy is around $10,000,” Rogers said, pointing out that lowering the budget to 12% would necessitate the city remove around $13,000 in expenditures.
Councilor James Mulcahey voiced concerns over a few specific line items in the Police Department’s budget. The first was over the increase in part-time funds for the police.
“On the police budget, we had a 2021 actual budget of $30K, which was raised to $50K this year, and I see that, next year, we raise that to $54k, even though our year-to-date is only around $15k. I’m just wondering if we’re going to use that,” Mulcahey asked.
Rogers said that the police would “probably” use that amount, with Andrea Moen, an administrative assistant, adding that the police saw a drought of part-time help this year, which should be fixed for next year. She also added that’s why the police’s overtime year-to-date spending was around $9k, even though the budget was only $6k — because full-time police officers were stepping up to spend extra time to cover shifts.
At the end of the meeting, the budget draft was approved, and it will be sent off to the county.
Waseca and New Richland
With the Janesville City Council opting to not meet on the 26th, citing the fact most of the administration will be gone for the preceding week and will be unable to compile materials for the meeting, the council was forced to make a decision at their first meeting of the month.
However, the cities of Waseca and New Richland, along with Waseca County, will both be approving budget drafts and preliminary levies at their final meetings of the month. The Waseca City Council and Waseca County Board of Commissioners were scheduled to meet on Tuesday, Sept. 20, and the New Richland City Council will meet on Monday, Sept. 26.
The current budget draft for the city of Waseca would see a tax levy of just over $5.7 million, necessitating an 11.2% increase in the tax levy. However, with the new tax capacity from current annexation and growth projects, city staff estimate that the tax rate increase, which is what would affect residents’ taxes, will be somewhere around 4.5%.
The most notable aspects of Waseca’s proposed budget is the elimination of a street maintenance position and the consolidation of the economic development coordinator and assistant to the city manager positions, which were combined for a savings of around $200,000. Those reductions will come at a cost, however, and according to City Manager Lee Mattson, that cost will be productivity.
“I don’t know that we will be seeing people working a lot harder. I just think that we will be accomplishing less over time,” Mattson said, in addressing concerns surrounding overworking city staff. Mattson also made sure to emphasize that the city was not looking at laying anyone off.
At New Richland’s Sept. 12 council meeting, City Administrator Tony Martens said that the current budget draft didn’t see a rise in the tax levy, but he estimated that the final draft of the budget will have an increase to accommodate city expenditures.
The Waseca County Commissioners, as well as the various departments around the county, have been working since June to develop budgets for 2023.
At its meeting Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners was scheduled to vote on a proposed budget draft, which would include a preliminary 3% increase to the tax levy in 2023, if approved.
The most notable line items on the proposed budget include a 68% increase in spending from the county administration department, from $274,911 to $463,826, as well as a near-300% increase in the Community Services building maintenance and a near-500% increase in the County Parks Department budget — with those two line items set to cost the county $87,400 and $170,600 respectively.