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Lanesboro looking to adjust budget

Fri, Feb 20th, 2009
Posted in Government

Åt their Feburary 17 meeting, members of the Lanesboro City Council looked over suggested budget cuts made by City Administrator Bobbie Vickerman. With Vickerman absent from the meeting, a motion was passed to approve the cuts for planning purposes. The city is expecting to receive at least $31,000 less in LGA (Local Government Aid) this year, and that number will double in 2010.

Vickerman had put together cuts that she recommended the council put into action for Step One. In her recommendations, she took $2,000 off staff office hours. If the park board does not trade the mower in for a newer one, it will save the city $3,500.

City Attorney Tom Manion worked with Vickerman on reducing the attorney fees by $5,000. He found that he could make some adjustments and be more "streamlined" with his time. He added that since Vickerman has been there for several years now, she can do many things on her own and needs less help from him than she used to.

"It was obvious after the last meeting that we all need to do something," said Manion. "So I came up with an idea."

Vickerman also cut $10,000 out of the operating expense and got rid of part time staff for street and park. In all, her suggestions made for $35,000 in cuts.

City Maintenance employee Andy Drake asked if the council had looked at cuts in the police department. Mayor Steve Rahn said they have talked with Chief of Police Matt Schultz and they are looking at making cuts as well.

The question came up about Lanesboro trying to have its own police department again, and Manion said that it cost the city a lot more money when they had their own. "It's astonishing how much police protection costs," he said.

Preston and Lanesboro together pay $240,000 a year, and Manion noted that some cities nearby pay that much or more on their own.

Permit Request

Brian Luna, who owns and runs the Fillmore House, had asked the council for a Conditional Use Permit to increase his Bed and Breakfast from a two-bedroom to a three-bedroom. A public hearing was held before the meeting and several residents turned up to voice their opinions.

Terry Neumann, who owns and runs Mrs. B's Bed and Breakfast, spoke up against any kind of B&B expansion, given the current economic situation. He argued that the number of existing rooms exceeds what the city can fill, and that adding one room to the B&B will take that much away from other businesses.

Butch Culbertson announced that he was in full support of the permit. "I think competition is a good thing," he said. "On the weekends there are always people. We could use it in the summer."

Luna himself spoke about the expansion. "I'm doing this to help sustain my business," he said. "I'm not adding on to my house, the room is already there. I am currently licensed for three bedrooms."

A resident who lives nearby said he was not against the expansion but had some concerns about parking. Luna stated he has a pad on his property that can be a parking spot for a third person.

Manion told Luna that with a Conditional Use Permit, the council could choose to put some conditions on it, and one of them could be parking. Luna said he has three spots for parking off-street.

Council member Tom Dybing said he received one email from a neighbor who was in favor of the permit. The council will discuss the permit to decide whether or not to allow it, and if there will be any conditions.

Seasonal Recreation Tax

Colleen Lamon from Stone Mill Suites was at the meeting with other lodging owners. They will be attending Tourism Day at the Capital and meeting with Senator Sharon Ropes and Representative Greg Davids in March. They will be discussing the Season Recreation Tax and how it applies to Lanesboro businesses. Lamon requested a letter of support from the city and the council approved.

According to Lamon, the Seasonal Recreation Property Tax classification is very much aimed at northern Minnesota, with wording about renting out things like fishing houses and snowmobiles. The Chamber would like to have the verbiage changed to something that is tailored for the entire state to make it fair for everyone.

The wording that the lodging owners would like to add says that the classification would apply to lodging establishments with twenty or fewer rooms for temporary occupancy, in a town with a population of 2,500 or less.

Eric Bunge said the property tax law has to define more clearly what is recreational for the Lanesboro area. "We've all been adjusting our businesses to fit into this law," he said. "It's just clarity in language and equity across the state."

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