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Preston discusses preliminary 2014 budget

Fri, Aug 23rd, 2013
Posted in Preston Government

By Karen Reisner

A long discussion ensued at the Preston City Council’s August 21 meeting as to the specific details outlined in an early draft of the 2014 budget.

Councilman Robert Maust peppered city administrator Joe Hoffman and city clerk Sheila Marzolf with a range of questions, asking for clarification and more information about funding for street maintenance to budgeting for the National Trout Center. Questions were answered and Hoffman said he would make more details and reports available for Maust’s review, including the Preston Utility audit and specific wages for city employees. Maust again said that he would like to see the NTC operate on its own with one set of books.

Maust argued that city staff should be able to decide which streets need maintenance instead of hiring the city engineer for his services. Hoffman disagreed saying the city engineer has expertise which will save the city money. For example, the city engineer can determine when seal coating a street will not result in extending the usable life of the street because it is already too far gone. Maust said there should be a 10 year plan and Hoffman agreed that was a good idea. Hoffman made it clear that the council makes the decisions, adding if the council wanted staff to make decisions on street maintenance, they would do it.

Hoffman said there will be a slight increase in Local Government Aid of $9,005. The LGA anticipated for 2014 is $493,985. For budgeting purposes a 15 percent increase in health insurance was included. In the past several years the health insurance increase has been about half that. The city will learn before the end of August the actual amount of the increase.

Employees will receive a 2 percent cost of living increase, plus step increases per union contract. A $21,000 line item was added to the 2014 budget for the planned 2014 Project Bond. This item was included to build a fund for an early interest payment expected in February 2015. This funding will add roughly 3 percent to the 2014 levy.

The total levy increase anticipated for 2014 in this preliminary budget would be $36,137 or 5.37 percent. The total levy would be $708,862. The preliminary levy must be adopted by September 15. Preliminary numbers can be lowered but not raised when the final numbers are approved in December. No action was taken. The preliminary budget will be acted on either at the September 3 meeting or at a special meeting before September 15.

Other Business In Brief

•Hoffman reported that EDA director Cathy Enerson has been doing considerably more research into options for the POP property. It was one of three derelict properties the city is considering purchasing, so they can be cleaned up to make them attractive for development. Maust had expressed concern at the council’s last meeting as to the potential cost of clean up of underground petroleum tanks at the POP site.

Enerson was not present but has been working with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to identify options that would limit the city’s liability. There will be an update at the next meeting.

•A temporary easement was granted through the end of 2013 as requested by Fillmore County for Erlyn Marzolf. Marzolf has agreed to release the county from his current easement agreement which goes through the property being transferred to the state of Minnesota for the State Veterans’ Cemetery. Until the county can have a new access constructed for Marzolf, access will be allowed by the city along a section of old railroad bed which is on city property. DNR Trails has also issued a temporary special access permit along the state trail right of way for Marzolf to access his landlocked land on the east side of the Root River. Marzolf will be restricted to motorized use of a four-wheeler or pick-up. The city does not have an obligation to maintain the temporary easement.

•Hoffman noted there have been numerous questions as to whether alcohol can be consumed in the city parks. Ordinance 111.05 seems to make alcohol consumption in a public park illegal. City Attorney Dwight Luhmann said no one has been prosecuted for alcohol consumption in a public park. Hoffman said there have been no complaints about people consuming alcohol in the parks, but just questions as to whether they can. No action was taken. More information will be gathered, including looking at similar ordinances in other cities.

•A closed portion of the meeting was held to update the council on the Forestville Trail eminent domain action. No action was taken.

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