After considerable discussion, the Chatfield City Council at their September 25 meeting certified the preliminary budget and levy. The original budget draft showed a possible increase of over 12%. The Budget Committee found this unacceptable, whittling it down to a levy increase of 7.9%, or a $121,532 increase over 2017.
City Clerk Joel Young noted this is the first time the CCTV budget will be subsidized with $20,000. There is a $14,400 increase for the library and a $16,000 increase for IT services.
Debt servicing for Industrial Dr. drives the increase; $56,000 for Industrial Dr. debt and $30,000 for Industrial Dr. utility debt. A total of $49,000 is also budgeted for the water meter debt. The budget includes a 2.75% pay increase for employees.
Councilor Paul Novotny explained part of what should have been set aside for mill and overlay projects has been used to make a bond payment. Money set aside for mill and overlay is a third of what it should be.
Councilor Joshua Broadwater insisted he didn’t like to see the levy go up in chunks (7 to 8% a year). Novotny said essentially we are paying for years where levy increases were held to a minimum. He said this was probably a mistake. Some of those years should have had a 5% increase, instead of almost no increase. He asked how are we going to fix not putting enough aside for mill and overlay; we used to put aside $150,000 and now it is just $40,000. It was noted that some of the money spent on Industrial Dr. can be recouped if we sell lots.
Young cited some of the challenges of budgeting. He said we do a lot of planning and programming including schedules for equipment replacement, chip sealing, and personnel compensation. The hydrant replacement program wasn’t in the plans. It still has to be done. There is real cost in maintaining the assets we have. We know we are kicking the funding for mill and overlay down the road. We are now funding storm sewers.
Novotny said we are paying now for saving in past years.
Broadwater maintained he personally doesn’t like an increase of near 8%. Mayor Russ Smith said we need to address storm water issues.
Young said tonight we set the top end (the highest it might be), adding the notices residents get in November are based on the preliminary levy numbers.
A motion to certify the preliminary budget and property tax levy at $1,658,646, which is a 7.9% increase from 2017, was approved. Broadwater voted no. The final budget and levy will be discussed and adopted at the December 11 council meeting.
Other business in brief
• Robert Vogel, Preservation Planner, described a plan to place eight interpretive signs in the downtown area (City Park, Center for the Arts, and the library). The council approved a conceptual plan for the signs. They authorized the Heritage Preservation Committee to apply for grants to pay for the fabrication and installation of the signs estimated to cost a total of $10,000. The plan is to apply for Minnesota Historical and Cultural Grants (Legacy funding). If the grant is received, installation of the signs is planned for late spring to summer of 2018. There should be no cost to the city.
• Brian Burkholder discussed a proposed agreement with Olmsted County to turn back a .42 mile section of CR 145. Olmsted County agrees to improve the section with handicapped ramps, curb and gutters, and resurfacing of the street before turning it over to the city. It will not be the city’s until the improvement work is complete. The section is from the junction with CSAH 10 at its intersection with Burr Oak south along Burr Oak to Winona St., southeasterly along Winona St. south to the county line. The agreement was approved.
• Burkholder reported lead and copper level testing is required to be done every three years by the Minnesota Department of Health. The tests showed that the public water system has not exceeded the action level for lead or copper.
• The first change order for Edge Contracting, Inc. for Industrial Dr. construction was approved in the amount of $19,150. This was necessary due to encountering much more rock than expected.
• An agreement to fix 65 sidewalk trip hazards with Safe Step LLC was approved. The company did a survey of the city sidewalks and found 65 locations that were suitable for saw cutting repairs. Sixteen locations were also identified that meet the city’s criteria for replacement. Burkholder explained that fixing trip hazards by saw cutting will result in cost savings and allow more problem sidewalks to be brought into compliance. The saw cutting at 65 locations will cost a total of $4,760. Burkholder estimated that a savings of $8,143 will be realized over the cost to demolish and repair these sidewalks.