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Preston City Council Report: Preliminary 2007 budget proposal discussed

Fri, Aug 25th, 2006
Posted in Government

An early budget draft was presented to Preston City Council members for discussion at the August 21 meeting. City Administrator Joe Hoffman introduced the budget and added that "no red pen" had been used on the requests made by the various department heads. He highlighted significant increases in health insurance, retirement plans, and a possible additional $10,000 for the street department for overlays.

Mayor Kurt Reicks speaking for the fire department explained that a new pumper truck will be needed by 2010. The city would be responsible for half of the cost with the townships contributing the other half. Council member Heath Mensink, with the Park Board, noted the need for a new mower requiring an additional $6,000 for that department. Council member Steve Knoepke questioned salary increases in the library budget and the size of the ambulance service fund.

Hoffman suggested that representatives from each department be invited to the next meeting on September 5 to discuss their requests. He stated that it will need to be decided whether to pay for items like a new pumper truck and street overlays now or later. Hoffman suggested that they bring options showing cuts and deeper cuts.

The preliminary budget would require more than a 13% increase in revenue from the tax levy. Hoffman pointed out that this is just a place to start. He asked if there should be a goal to reduce the levy increase to about 5%. Mensink suggested that it probably won't be possible to limit the increase to less than 7%. Knoepke insisted that we can't live with a 13% increase.

Members decided to discuss the proposals more at the September 5 meeting. If necessary another special final discussion on the budget will be held on September 6.

Cost of Living (COLA) increases for 2007 were proposed by Dan Boesen representing the Preston Public Employees Association (PPEA). He asked for a 5% increase. Knoepke said that 5% was "awful steep" and that the city can't afford to fund that amount along with the step increases granted employees. Hoffman noted that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) from July 2005 to July 2006 showed an increase of 3.3% for the Midwest region.

Joe Hoffman explained that both the council and Utility Commission need to approve an increase and negotiate with the union. The 2006 increase was 3%. He added that the COLA does not have to be set until the end of the year, but that it needs to be addressed now for budgeting purposes. Hoffman said that 3% has been penciled into the budget.

Mensink moved to set the COLA at 3%. The motion failed. Heath Mensink and Robert Sauer voted for the motion, Jon Haugan abstained, and Steve Knoepke and Kurt Reicks voted against.

Hoffman noted that in the past the October CPI has been used as a guide.

Overlay Bids

Three bids were submitted to do the overlay projects on Main Street, St. Anthony Street, and Parkside Drive. The projects were awarded to Road Constructors, Inc. with a bid of just over $59,000. The accepted bid was a few thousand below the estimate submitted by Bonestroo and Associates. The project should start on September 5 and be substantially completed by September 30 with final completion by mid October.

Entrance Signs

Holly Zuch requested that a subcommittee to the Tourism Committee be formed to work on a project for 'welcome signs' for the city. A sign has already been designed. The subcommittee will need to decide whether to use the original design which everyone on the council that commented seemed to think was a good design because it said a lot and was still simple or to change the design.

Zuch invited the original group that worked on the design back and others that are interested. Council member Sauer agreed to sit on the committee. Hoffman noted that there has been some interest of incorporating a bicycle into the design. The committee will also have to work with MnDot for locations to put the signs.

Compensation for Detour

MnDot has made an offer of $819.22 for damages to city streets during the Hwy 52 detour. Another $119.97 is offered for short detours. Hoffman suggested that the city could appeal if the amounts were inadequate. Mensink suggested that damages could be documented by determining how much material and time was used to patch the streets. Before pictures were taken and after pictures could be taken.

The council decided to have City Administrator Joe Hoffman do a review of the damages and appeal MnDot's offer

Plea to Keep the

Elections Civil

Robert Sauer discussed the defacing and vandalizing of political signs. He noted that with the polarization of the public before the November elections that people should try to be as civil as possible. Signs should be on private property and not on the boulevard between the sidewalk and street or in the highway right of ways. He suggested that sign placement does involve freedom of speech.

City Attorney Steve Corson said that signs on the boulevard should be moved, signs should not have been put up early and should be removed within ten days of the election.

Sauer insisted that the most important thing is "for people to get along."

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