Alexandria City Council trims budgetThe Alexandria City Council tightened its budget belt by a couple of notches Monday night, adopting a levy of $5.69 million for 2013.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
The Alexandria City Council tightened its budget belt by a couple of notches Monday night, adopting a levy of $5.69 million for 2013.
That’s an increase of 2.82 percent from this year’s levy of $5.54 million but 0.27 percent less than the preliminary levy the council set this past September.
The council made the last-minute adjustments by holding off the starting dates of a new police officer and an engineer/public works director by a couple of months.
The levy would have dropped a bit more but the city had to increase the amount it contributes to the Alexandria Lakes Area Sanitary District. Because of recent annexations in Alexandria Township, the city has more property in the sewer district, a factor that was not figured into the September levy. As a result, the city’s share to ALASD increased from $612,759 to $620,899, according to City Administrator Jim Taddei.
A public hearing was held Monday on the 2013 budget and levy but no one spoke.
The levy is just one of several factors that determine property tax bills. According to information from City Assessor Reed Heidelberger, the city’s portion of property taxes will decrease 3 to 8 percent for most residents because more property came into the city through annexation.
Some examples: Taxes on a residential home valued at $150,000 will drop 7.6 percent, from $606 to $560 (city portion only); commercial property values at $222,100 will drop 5.5 percent, from $1,733 to $1,637; and residential non-homestead property valued at $193,300 will drop 5.8 percent, from $910 to $857.
Other highlights of the budget:
--Next year’s expenses are estimated at $10.39 million, an increase of 1.8 percent.
--The budget reflects a 3 percent overall employee wage increase. In 2012, wages were frozen. The city is hiring one additional police officer along with a new city engineer who will replace the public works coordinator. Two positions, a street worker who retired in 2011 and a park worker who resigned this year, will not be filled.
--To lower the levy, no dollars were budgeted for employee benefits, planning commission development, the airport development fund, capital improvement fund or the equipment funds for streets, parks, fire, police and Runestone Community Center (RCC). Any expenses for those purposes next year will be funded through fund balances or reserves and based on city council approval.
--The Fire Fighters Relief Association will increase 3 percent. The amount in the fund fluctuates because of investment changes and the city is required to make adjustments. In 2013, the city will contribute $143,251 to the fund.
--The amount designated for Rainbow Rider transportation system increased from $15,000 to $25,000, the amount that was allocated in 2011.
--The street paving program was reduced from $162,000 to $90,000 but $50,000 was added for a new street reconstruction program.
--Not including the tax levy, 2013 receipts were budgeted to be $4.69 million, which is 2.4 percent less than this year. Franchise and delinquent taxes are expected to decline $105,000 to a total of $420,000. Licenses and permit fees are expected to decline $83,150 to a total of $437,660, reflecting a continued decline in the building construction industry.
--Intergovernmental revenues are expected to drop $10,000 to $1.42 million. Local government aid is anticipated to stay at the 2012 amount, $1.2 million.
--It’s projected that the two municipal liquor stores will bring in enough profit to transfer $200,000 to the general fund.
Council member Virgil Batesole was the only council member to vote against the budget and levy. He said some budget items were too high, including police, the RCC and public transportation. He also opposed salary increases.
Batesole made a motion to obtain competitve quotes for those providing professional services to the city in 2014, including engineering, legal, auditing and financial. He said it's a good idea to periodically call for bids to see if the city could save money. The motion passed 3-2. Sara Carlson and Owen Miller voted for the motion while Dave Benson and Elroy Frank were opposed.
In other action, the council:
--Heard an update from Carlson, who is leaving her Ward 2 position on January 2 to become mayor. Carlson encouraged anyone in Ward 2 who is interested in the council seat to submit an application by December 14. Applications are available at City Hall. A committee is screening applicants and will make a recommendation to the council.
--Amended the city’s tax increment financing (TIF) policy, as recommended by Jason Murray, director of the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission. The policy now defines an extensive environmental project that would be eligible for TIF assistance beyond 13 years as property that contains hazardous substances, pollution or contaminants that require removal or remediation. Another new section requires developers to provide a list of amenities for TIF housing development applications. Another change requires the TIF applicant to pay more, $5,000 instead of $3,500, once the city gives an application preliminary approval but before work is started on the final TIF documents. TIF applications will also now include specific language stating that the project could not begin without TIF.
--Held a hearing to get final public comments on a $360,000 federal grant the city received in 2010 through the Small Cities Development Program for owner-occupied housing improvements. The city assisted 26 homeowners through the program, which expires at the end of the year. No one spoke at the public hearing.
--Gave preliminary approval to make changes in the city’s fee schedule. Fees for tattoo businesses were eliminated because they are now licensed through the state. A new right-of-way permit fee option for water service connections in the Phase 4 annexation area was established. Contractors can buy an annual permit for $500 a year to do as many connections as they want instead of paying $50 for each right-of-way permit, along with a $300 refundable deposit. Nuisance fees were increased from $75 to $100. After-the-fact sign permit fees were established at $100 or double the permit fee, whichever is greater. A new formula for determining valuation-based permit surcharges was also approved. The formula won't affect the overall cost, according to Marty Schultz, assistant city administrator. Batesole voted against the fee schedule. He was concerned that contractors would use the new water-service connection option to pass along costs to homeowners.
--Renewed the on-sale beer license and the motorized vehicle racing license for Alexandria Viking Speedway, pending final approval from the RCC Board that meets Tuesday. The RCC Board will check the schedule to make sure it doesn't conflict with any other events. The 2013 race season begins with a first-ever Central Minnesota Icebreaker on April 18 (practice) and continues through October 13 with the 11th annual Viking Fall Classic. As in the past, all races must end by 10:45 p.m. and run no later than 9 p.m. on school nights.
--Scheduled a public hearing to discuss making sanitary sewer improvements on Kenwood Drive as requested by three property owners. The cost is estimated at $110,626. The hearing will take place on January 28 at 7:15 p.m. at City Hall. Taddei noted that because the cost is so high, the council may want to consider alternatives to make the project affordable to the property owners, such as using funds from the city's revolving loan fund. There are no sewer lines in that area, forcing the residents to use their own systems.
--Appointed Bremer Insurance and its agent Ryan Donovan to serve as the city’s representative in the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust worker’s compensation program.
--Approved a charitable gambling license for the Viking Sportsmen to sell raffles at its annual banquet at the Holiday inn on April 4.
--Issued a temporary liquor license for St. Mary’s Church to serve alcohol for an event on February 9.
--Issued a variety of other licenses – off-sale beer, heating contractor, excavating contractor, garbage hauler, massage therapist, sign hanger and taxi cab.