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Paynesville Press - September 17, 2003

City council approves preliminary budget, tax levy

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

The city of Paynesville has proposed a preliminary budget of $1,330,980 and a tax levy of $459,155 for 2004.

The city council approved the preliminary budget and property tax levy, which is five percent higher than last year. The council also set a truth-in-taxation public hearing for Wednesday, Dec. 23, at 6 p.m.

The preliminary city budget represents a 1.8 percent spending increase ($23,705) from the 2003 budget. The proposed tax levy is up five percent ($21,864) from 2003.

By law, the proposed levy had to be certified by the county by Monday, Sept. 15, forcing the city to approve a preliminary budget by then.

Once the preliminary tax levy is approved, it can only be increased by referendum, said city administrator Steve Helget, so the levy amount is the worst-case scenario. "It is foreseeable that the levy can be worked back a little," Helget told the council last week.

Helget cautioned that the proposed budget is still in its earliest stages and is very preliminary. Details have only been worked out for the general fund at this point, he said. The city has until the end of the year to finalize the budget and submit it to the state.

The city will also approve its final tax levy in December.

The city's expected revenue for 2004 will come from state aid ($474,563); property taxes ($459,155); motor vehicle fees ($105,800); fire contracts ($50,000); interest income ($50,000); police contract ($34,000); transfer from the liquor store ($27,500); building permits ($21,050); franchise fees ($19,700); fines ($11,000, including an additional $8,500 for new administrative fines); and licenses and permits ($6,720). (Miscellaneous revenues account for the other $71,501.)

Projected expenditures include $293,797 for public safety/police; $144,852 for streets and alleys; $132,227 for public safety/fire; $123,618 for administration; $109,476 for motor vehicle; $89,300 for bond payments; $79,396 for municipal parks; $43,395 for public services/airport; $41,939 for snow and ice removal; $35,000 for recreational programs; $32,500 for street lighting; $32,391 for beaches/Veteran's Memorial Park; $27,873 for the mayor and council; $22,700 for building inspections; $11,600 for cable television; $8,199 for the library; $5,550 for emergency services; $5,000 for human rights; and $5,000 for the Koronis Civic Arena.

(Miscellaneous expenditures account for the other $87,176 in spending.)

In 2003, the budget had to be amended to reflect a loss in aid from the state. The city responded by using money from the EDAP fund, the street maintenance fund, several capital improvement funds, and money from the liquor store fund.

Not expecting more state aid this year, the city's 2004 budget puts a $27,500 transfer from the liquor store directly into the general fund and does not include money for EDAP or for some capital improvement funds. If their state aid is cut further, though, the city will make further spending cuts in 2004.

Last week, the city approved the prepayment of some general obligation bonds, which will save the city nearly $225,000 in the long run and $68,000 in 2004, which could be put back in the general fund, said Helget.

The timing for early payoff on these bonds was good, said Helget, and could help prevent the city from resorting to making substantial increases to property taxes.

City officials will continue working on the budget and levy this fall and should have a final proposal by December for the public hearing and ultimate council approval.

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