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Lanesboro City Council approves budget and levy

Fri, Dec 6th, 2013
Posted in Lanesboro Government

The Lanesboro City Council approved the 2014 Budget and Levy at their regular meeting on December 2. The levy was set at $503,747.

The Truth in Taxation Hearing was held during the meeting. No residents came forward with concerns or questions.

Theresa Coleman of the Public Utilities Commission commended City Administrator David Todd and everyone else involved on the tough job of putting together a budget.

Mike Bubany of David Drown Associates recommends a city has enough reserves to cover six months of operating expenses. In Lanesboro’s case, this would amount to about $300,000. The reserves for 2014 come to $50,000.

Todd mentioned how the city had been dipping into the reserves to cover operating expenses, and how over the years, these reserves have dwindled. “We need to commit to a plan to get out of this hole,” he said.

Todd went on to say that although he doesn’t live in Lanesboro, he cares deeply about the success of the city, and said they are at a “tipping point” with their finances. “Something needs to be done,” he said.

The budget, which was ultimately approved, is what Todd called a “bare bones” budget, purely what it costs to run the city. He said he didn’t want to give the council an inflated budget, so cuts were made from the preliminary budget. The original budget was 107 percent of the tax capacity. The final budget, which was ultimately approved, was at 99 percent. This is higher than the city had been operating previously, but still not as high as some communities in the area.

Two ways the city can increase the reserves are to pad the operating accounts with extra money, or to dedicate funds specifically for that purpose.

Todd has spoken to the department heads about their budgets because he believes they know better than anyone where corners can be cut.

Councilor Tom Smith felt the council should be looking closely at cutting some costs instead of padding the budgets with extra money. He felt if there was extra money in the budget, it was likely to be spent.

Todd replied if there was no padding, something unforeseen could happen, and when they go to the reserves to cover it, there won’t be anything there, leaving a line of credit as the only option for the city.

“We have a fantastic work force here, guys that truly care, and I believe that if they don’t need it, they’re not going to spend it,” said Todd. “I put my trust in them. If we give them the budget and tell them to tighten the purse strings, I think they will.”

Smith agreed the city has excellent employees, and it’s not that he doesn’t trust them.

Todd also mentioned that expenditures by departments do have to be approved

Mayor Steven Rahn said, “It’s going to be hard, but we have to look down the road a bit, too.”

The budget was approved, with Smith opposing.

Public Utilities

Theresa Coleman of the Public Utilities Commission spoke about the Public Utilities budget for 2014. According to Coleman, the budget requires increases in utility rates ranging from 7.5 percent to 20 percent, and reflects the actual cost of services.

Smith asked why there was such an increase in wages. The budget for last year’s wages was $97,000, and was increased to $142,000 for 2014. Coleman explained the budget is based on actual expenditures from last year, not what was in the budget. The PU commission went through the actual cost of employees for each utility and based the budget on projected wages for 2014.

Smith also asked about the $10,000 budgeted for small tools and minor equipment. Coleman said this could be used for any small tools or equipment needed for any of the utilities.

Smith was concerned that things in the budget have not been looked at closely, and there may be expenses that can be cut. He didn’t feel comfortable voting on rate increases having just seen the actual budget.

Coleman stated the budget is a plan, and there needs to be some breathing room within the budget in case of unforeseen expenses or projects.

Councilor Tom Dybing agreed, noting that just because there is a number in the budget doesn’t mean it has to be spent.

Ambulance Report

Ambulance Director Lee Peterson gave the council a summary of the last year. There were a total was 105 ambulance responses; 80 were in the Lanesboro area and 25 in other areas. Seventy of them were in homes, 62 were medical, 31 traumas, and 12 alcohol/psychiatric related. Six involved vehicles, three were at the park, and seven were on the trail.

Peterson asked about raising rates at the recommendation of the billing department. The item will be on next month’s agenda for the council to approve.

Other Business

Ordinances increasing rates for garbage, water, sewer, and electric were approved.

A resolution was passed for an application for PFA (Public Facilities Authority) funding to pay for the water radium project.

The council approved the fire department gambling license for 2014.

The Lanesboro Chamber of Commerce will have their annual meeting on January 15 at 7 p.m. at the Community Center.

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