City Administrator Ryan Throckmorton reviewed some adjustments to the city’s 2024 budget at the city council’s November 20 meeting.
Some changes made since the preliminary budget was approved included a smaller increase for health insurance than estimated, an increase in dental insurance that was greater than expected, a 5.5% increase in salaries (estimated 5%), a lower cost for election expenses, a lower cost for city hall utilities, and a higher schooling expense.
Two increases to city revenues included $2,500 more in police department state aid and a cemetery reimbursement to the general fund for a portion of contracted janitor wages.
With these adjustments the 2024 levy remains unchanged from preliminary figures, or a 5.84% increase over 2023. The savings realized from the actual numbers were offset by additional expenses. The final budget and levy will be considered at a December meeting. The final levy can be less than the preliminary levy, but not greater than the preliminary levy.
Throckmorton noted in order to lower the final levy, cuts will need to come from street improvement funds or contingency funds. No action was taken this day.
Consumer Confidence Water Report
Recently, water quality has been in both national and state news. Nitrates are an issue especially in some private wells in southeast Minnesota. Throckmorton said the city water report is published annually and city water is tested quite frequently throughout the year. The full 2022 report is on the city’s website. There were no violations; tests for radium, nitrate and barium showed the city’s water to be far better than the Environmental Protection Agency’s safety limits. A July 31, 2023, test resulted in Nitrate plus Nitrite Nitrogen total to be less than .05 parts per million. The EPA’s safety limit is 10.4 parts per million.
Other Business in Brief
•Councilman Steve Hall asked for clarification and questioned the city’s support for the Preston Historical Society’s plans for a Historic Campus and Riverfront, which was discussed at the November 6 city council meeting. He said he wanted to continue the dialogue. The city attorney failed to attend a PHS meeting last Monday and Hall felt his absence showed a lack of support.
Mayor Kurt Reicks said the PHS needs to prove the Phase II plan is feasible. There should be a business plan as to how the Historic Campus will be run and how it will be maintained once it is built. Reicks said he supports the project, but “we need facts and figures, like what it will cost to rebuild the Dairy & Farm building.”
Throckmorton compared it to a zoning application. “You do the fact finding before sending it to the city council. You will essentially be submitting an application for use of that (Dairy & Farm) building.” It is common to do a feasibility study to prove it will be successful and to show how it will be implemented.
Councilman Dean Aug agreed we need information to make an informed decision. Councilman Charles Sparks asked, “If we go ahead with the study, will the city council look at it?” Reicks suggested PHS will get positive support from the city if information collected proves this is a feasible plan.
•A pay request to Griffin Construction in the amount of $7,771.80 was approved as presented. Work completed included repair of a washout area on Circle Heights Dr., rain damage on the Veterans Home Trail, and gravel and grading to the water tower. The cost of gravel and grading to the water tower was shared with Preston Public Utility.
•A quote from Asbestrol, Inc. in the amount of $1,180 was approved to abate two materials requiring abatement at the POP site. The payment is for removal and disposal.
•A contract agreement for 2024, 2025 and 2026 with Preston Public Employees Association (PPEA) was approved. The cost-of-living increase for 2024 is 5.5%, for 2025 3.5%, and for 2026 3.5%. Other points of agreement include summer hours, increase of on-call pay, update on the boot allowance, and an increase of the cell phone stipend.
•Labor agreement terms for non-PPEA employees were approved. Terms are the same as the PPEA, where applicable.
•The city council meets next on December 4. This will be the Truth in Taxation meeting, which allows for public comment on the city’s proposed budget and levy for 2024.