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Preston 2015 budget discussed

Mon, Aug 25th, 2014
Posted in Preston Government

The Preston City Council at their August 20 meeting discussed options the city has to limit the levy increase in 2015. Councilman David Harrison was absent.

City Administrator Joe Hoffman introduced the discussion draft for the 2015 budget which reflects all departmental requests and the city’s bond payment obligations. Due to those bond payment obligations for the 2014 street improvements and expected bond payments for the North Industrial Park improvements the tax levy for 2015 could see a $100,000 increase or more than 14 percent.

Hoffman asked the council what numerical increase in the budget/levy the staff should work toward. The council agreed that a 14 percent increase that was shown in the discussion draft was not acceptable. By consensus they requested that the proposed levy increase be whittled down to 7 percent or about $50,000.

How can the reductions be accomplished? The 2014 improvement bonding will require that $89,592 be included in 2015 budget/levy. Hoffman explained that $24,000 had been added to the discussion draft for the industrial park improvements. This figure could be eliminated or lowered for the 2015 budget as it was added to help level expenses for the 2016 budget. The discussion draft showed $90,000 budgeted in the street fund for ongoing street maintenance. Hoffman said this figure could be reduced for a few years to help smooth out levy increases. Staff will also go back to departments to get reductions in their requests where possible.

The city is expecting a slight increase in Local Government Aid for 2015. No increase in health insurance is anticipated. Salary increases for cost of living are yet to be determined.

Councilman Robert Maust maintained that budget priorities should benefit everybody instead of just a few. He requested figures from the city staff showing what the levy increase would cost property owners in certain market value levels. Those figures will be provided at the next meeting. The city has to approve a preliminary budget and levy by September 15.

Other Business In Brief

•There was considerable discussion during a public hearing on the proposed vacation of the 500 block of Winona St. near the Kneeskern property just south of Chatfield Avenue. The proposal was that 13 feet go to the property to the west and 33 feet go to the property to the east. The issue arose when surveying errors made over half a century ago were recognized during the sale process of the Kneeskern property.

Attorney Scott Springer, representing Carole Bond, asked that her property line run to the curb on the east side. She has been paying property taxes for 27 years on three lots and owned about 20,000 square feet on paper, but with the new survey her property size will be cut about in half. She was concerned about the market value of her property being reduced. Hoffman said after considerable discussion that they had a verbal agreement to move the line to within a foot of the curb ,which would get Bond about an additional 1,300 square feet.

A resolution to vacate the afore mentioned portion of Winona St. was approved.

•Robert Maust representing the Methodist Church requested that the city share part of the cost to patch the church parking lot. The area of the parking lot over a city storm water main is breaking up. The patch work will be done at a cost of $2,745. The council approved a payment of $1,000 to pay for a portion of the repair. Maust abstained.

•The council again discussed possibilities for lighting the city’s south welcome sign. It has been an issue in the past and power service has not been taken to the sign due to cost because of the terrain and rock. A solar light has not been adequate. Jim Bakken explained that an underground service has been ruled out and an overhead line in the state right of way would cost nearly $12,000. The Preston Public Utilities (PPU) commission felt that it was too costly for one light, but they agreed to donate labor and equipment time which could reduce the cost to the city to $8,500.

Mayor Kurt Reicks asked what it would cost to move the sign. The discussion then moved to the lack of business signage along Highway 52. Reicks said people passing through don’t realize that there is more to Preston than what is along Highway 52. Maust suggested the PPU reconsider a cost share. Councilman Charles Sparks said it will still cost too much for one light. No action was taken.

•The Historical Society has proposed that a fence be placed around the box car and caboose. Maust said they are asking for quotes and that the Historical Society expects they will have enough money to pay for the fence. Bakken noted that the county engineer does not have an issue with the fence. No action was taken.

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