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Harmony City Council sets levy for 2014

Fri, Dec 13th, 2013
Posted in Harmony Government

The Harmony City Council approved the budget and set the 2014 levy at their regular meeting on December 10. The levy was set at $550,000.

When discussing the budget items, Mayor Steven Donney asked about the $40,000 that has been in the budget every year for Heritage Grove. City Administrator Jerome Illg said the city lost $300,000 when they sold Heritage Grove, so that will remain in the budget and go into the general fund.

Donney also had some concerns with the library budget, and suggested a cut of $3,500. He noticed an increase in the budget of $3,500 over the last two years, and felt it was excessive. Librarian Stephanie Silvers was at the meeting for the discussion.

“Costs are going up, too,” noted Silvers. “If I don’t get an increase, I won’t be able to get as many books. Right now I can barely keep up with bestsellers.”

Silvers said that 67 percent of the increase she was asking for was for salary and wages. The rest of it was for books, audio, and videos.

Illg clarified that the budget for audio, video, and books was $7,500 in 2012, $9,500 in 2013, and $11,270 proposed for 2014. That comes to an increase of $1,800 from 2013 to 2014.

Donney felt the increase was a lot higher than a maintaining level, and suggested they cut the budget by $1,000.

He also made a motion to set the COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) for city employees at 1.5 percent. Those changes in the budget were approved.

The $550,000 levy was not changed from the preliminary set in September. The extra $1,000 from the library budget will go into the general fund.

The levy is currently at 99.165 percent of the tax capacity, which is right near or below what other cities in the area are at, and a decrease of 4.27 percent.

Assessment policy

Brett Grabau of the engineering company Bonestroo was at the meeting to discuss the proposed special assessment policy and the 1st Ave SW project.

The city never had a formal assessment policy. In the past, they have consistently assessed 25 percent of street reconstruction, and 25 percent of the utilities. In the proposed policy, property owners will be assessed 40 percent of the project costs. The city will pay 100 percent of storm sewer improvements and sanitary sewer replacement for street reconstruction projects, and the public utilities will pay 100 percent of lateral water main improvements.

After some discussion about the standard width of streets, it was decided to place a maximum of 32 feet to be assessed in non-industrial areas.

Having a formal policy in writing will help the city when it comes time for future projects. “You can tell people this is how it’s set up,” said Grabau. “You guys can do what you want, but we have something here to try to follow.”

Council member Debbie Swenson asked if the 40 percent was common in other areas. Grabau said that policy has been used for many years in other communities.

More discussion was had about sidewalk replacement. The proposed policy states that sidewalk replacement will be assessed 100 percent to the benefitting property owner. Mayor Donney felt that if the city wants a sidewalk replaced, the city should pay for it. Grabau said if an existing sidewalk has to be replaced during street reconstruction with the purpose of correcting a grade, the cost will be assessed to the property owner.

The policy was adopted as presented with the addition of the maximum street width.

1st Avenue project

Grabau presented the council with a tentative schedule for the 1st Avenue SW street project coming up next summer. According to Grabau, a feasibility report needs to be done before a public hearing can be held. The schedule shows that Grabau will present a brief report to the council at the regular meeting on January 14. He then suggested they have a separate meeting on January 21 just for the public hearing. That way, they can submit the plans to the county and Minnesota Department of Transportation on January 27. The council approved the January 21 public hearing.

Building and Maintenance

City maintenance employee Chris Johnson shared Al Torgerson of TLC Excavating has done some work around town recently. Torgerson cleared the way for the skating rink that is now completed and ready to use. Johnson said the rink is 40 feet by 60 feet, and might be bigger next year if it gets used a lot this winter.

There was some discussion about lowering the chlorine levels in the water. In order to renew the five-year permit, the city must show they are doing something to lower the levels. This involves Johnson getting water samples on a daily basis. Johnson said the samples taken closer to the plant have higher chlorine content than water samples taken further away.

Community Center

The city had received an estimate from Morem Electric for some work that needs to be done at the Community Center. The projects presented were electric wiring and lights in the kitchen ($2,950), a cabinet heater for the kitchen ($2,500), and some lighting in the library ($300). There was some discussion about whether all of the projects needed to be done at this time. Illg said the lighting and wiring in the kitchen were probably more important than the heater, if the council were to pick one. The council eventually approved all three projects.

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