As the end of the year draws near, Peterson is working to finalize its 2022 budget and tax levy. “I pretty much have it complete. I’m just working on the details,” noted City Clerk Chris Grindland at the October 13 council meeting. The city is currently looking at a 6% increase.
The city’s tax levy bringing in just over $100,000. With the addition of Local Government Aid to revenues, the city is looking at approximately $155,000. “We have $154,000 of expenses so that gives us a balanced budget,” added Grindland.
Other key details from the budget review included note that nothing was added to the funds set aside for street improvement. However, the Electric Fund has a balance over $100,000 as of last month. Interfund transfers are an option should the city ned to make any improvements to its streets. No street projects are planned.
The Water and Sewer Funds both remain in good standing and no changes are proposed. The city is taking a $2,000 annual loss due to garbage collection, however. “When we set prices, I didn’t take into consideration administration costs, the cost of the software, tax,” said Grindland. The city has 73 garbage totes and 31 of them larger-sized. “I propose to make it a flat rate regardless of the size of the tote,” he added. “If we make it $18, we would be looking at $580 a year in revenue.”
Should the council approve the change, the $2.50 increase would become effective in January. “We don’t have to make a decision tonight. It just gives people notice on utility bills,” said Grindland.
The only other proposed change for 2022 is an increase in rates at the city campground. By raising rates from $30 to $35, it would provide another $2,600 annually to city revenues. When the rate was last set, the city contacted area campgrounds to compare rates and decided to stay below the average threshold. The balance of the Campground Fund is currently almost $41,000. The city is planning improvements to the campground some time between this fall and next.
Plans include shifting the entrance road to the east, beginning near the north end, in an effort to relocate the parking lot. This will also provide more room for both the campground and playground areas, as well as add green space around the playground and shelter, increasing safety and appearance. Electric service to the area is both 20 and 30 amp and the city previously secured a quote to upgrade to 50 amp. “The quote was a couple thousand, but we should make sure the layout of everything is good first,” noted Grindland.
WiFi service was recently added to the campground, but it will be shut off for the season. “Adding WiFi could be one of the reasons we could raise rates on the campground,” noted Councilor Gail Boyum via Zoom.
“This might be a good time to look at things we want to do with the campsites to make them more appealing,” added Councilor Chris Stenzel.
“Are our spots long enough?” asked Mayor Tim Hallum, referencing the sheer size of modern campers. “I think we’re going to have to do some revamping. We have to just look at it closer.”
“In the long run, as big as they’re getting, maybe we need to move some spots,” added Stenzel. Currently, the campground has nine spots all located in a one row along the west edge of the park. Difficulty maneuvering some campers into these spots has been mentioned by campers to the city. If the city adds spots, rather than moves some, anything more than 10 spots requires public showers. “Maybe we could put some by the football field. It’s something to look at before the road, although we would have to get water over there,” he continued.
Hallum indicated the best bet might be to add spots east of the shelter where tapping into electrical service is simple, but perhaps without sewer hookups. “This gives us ideas to look at,” he noted. The council opted to discuss the matter more in the future.
Other changes for the city budget for 2022 included cost of living wage increases for both Grindland and Public Works Director Rick Lee. Grindland asked that his increase be split between Health Savings account and salary.
The final budget and levy will be adopted at the next council meeting. “Think about it. Go over it,” said Hallum. “Another thing to look at is we’re at six percent, but we can drop it, too.”
In other news, the council reviewed five quotes gathered by Lee. The quotes are for loader tractors to upgrade the city’s current tractor. The quotes came from St. Joseph’s Equipment, SEMA Equipment, Preston Equipment, Highland Motors, and Hammel Equipment, and ranged from $18,700 to $20,900. “They’re all pretty close,” noted Lee. He did have some concerns over the weight of at least one of the tractors putting pressure on the levee at the west side of the Root River and noted that, after test drives, he did prefer the Kubota or John Deere models.
The quotes include trade-in value on the city’s Kubota tractor, but it was unclear if all included cash or financed pricing and similar inclusions. “I’m just wondering if we’re comparing the same thing,” said Grindland. “The trade-in price is considerably different and some are listing the loader separately and some don’t list the loader at all. We’ll have to go through the paperwork to make sure we have all the right numbers.”
“Yeah, I don’t think they’ve got apples to apples on the tractor,” added Lee. The city will review the quotes again at the next meeting, once they can verify all details with the companies. The city has budgeted for the purchase and has the cash available. However, the city will be seeking a USDA grant to cover part or all of the cost.
The council will also be certifying overdue utility bills to the county at the next meeting. Those bills will be added to property tax rolls for payment. Residents and businesses with overdue utility bills have until the November meeting to bring their account current or they will be certified to the county.
One notable change in the coming months for the city will be the lack of the Christmas in Peterson event, which has been popular in recent years. With 40 vendors, organizers thought it would be unfair to those vendors if, closer to the event, the event is cancelled due to inability to keep it socially distanced indoors. The event will be back in 2022 and organizers are seeking volunteers to assist with planning.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Wednesday, November 10, at 6 p.m., at city hall. It is open to the public.