2014 city budget, tax levy down slightly
New Richmond residents who received their property tax bills in late December may have been pleasantly surprised.
The New Richmond City Council approved the city’s final 2014 budget, levy and mill rate at its Dec. 9 meeting. The city is decreasing its operating levy by 0.05 percent and its debt levy by 2.6 percent. The approved levy was a little more than $5.248 million, with a mill rate just over 0.022.
On a $100,000 home, the city is collecting about $2,219.15, which is a decrease of about $93 from last year. On a $200,000 home, the city is collecting about $4,438.30, which is a decrease of about $186 from a year ago.
A 7.1 percent reduction in the New Richmond School District portion of the tax bill also contributed to residents’ lower bills.
During the Dec. 9 meeting, City Administrator Mike Darrow thanked Finance Director Nancy Peterson and City Treasurer Bev Langenback for the hard work and extra hours they put in preparing the 2014 budget.
He said the entire budget process started about 90 days early to allow time to meet with each department and for the creation of a budget book so the city could share the information publicly and gather citizen input.
“We do that so the public can comment on our process and look at the specific numbers, as well as look at individual departments,” Darrow said. “It has been online, and it has been viewed by over 100 people on Facebook alone. We appreciate the public’s comments in this process.”
Darrow said the theme for the 2014 budget is “The Year of the Plan.”
“This Year of the Plan is about focusing on who we are and where we want to be into the future,” Darrow said at the meeting. “With the (St. Croix Crossing) bridge and with any amount of growth that we will probably see here in the next couple of years, it’s really important for us to have a better understanding of who we are moving forward.”
Darrow told the council that he expected the city to continue to see decreases in revenue due to intergovernmental revenue drying up from federal and state sources.
“We need to balance that when we put together our department budgets with the understanding that we may see additional loss in revenue,” Darrow said.
The general government portion of the budget will see an increase of 11.23 percent (more than $126,000). Multiple reasons for the hefty increase were laid out in the city’s budget book, including savings for unfunded liabilities and newly created finance positions. An additional $10,000 for human resources updates and studies and additional funds for recognition of board and commission members also contributed to the increase in this part of the budget.
The police department’s piece of the pie will decrease 1.28 percent (more than $23,000) in 2014. According to the budget book, the decrease was attributed to health care savings. This year, the city will conduct a hiring study to ensure the level of police protection is adequate and appropriate based on call volumes, long-range needs and projected population growth.
The fire department budget will see a small decrease of 0.27 percent (more than $545). Health care savings was identified as the reason for less spending.
Public Safety (Miscellaneous)
A massive increase of 43.03 percent (nearly $29,000) will be spent in the portion of the public safety budget that accounts for ambulance services, dam operations, disaster control and other small public safety expenditures. More than $26,700 of that increase is in the ambulance line item alone.
The budget book says, “It is imperative that a long-term financial management plan is established for the ambulance budget as the city will not be able to continue to manage this type of increase in the years to follow.”
Public Works - Streets
About 0.36 percent ($3,440) less will be spent on New Richmond streets in 2014. Part of the decrease can be attributed to the hiring of Public Works Director Jeremiah Wendt, and how his position is funded. Health care savings also contributed.
According to the budget book: “In 2014, the Street Department will look for ways to share costs with other regional departments related to bulk salt orders, equipment sharing, and a combined Public Works Department within the City of New Richmond.”
Public Works - Airport
The New Richmond Regional Airport will see 0.34 percent ($442) less money this year. Increases were allotted for weed control and overall operations, while decreases were applied to salaries and health insurance.
Public Works - Shared Taxi
The city will save 4.13 percent ($1,678) on its shared ride taxi service due to a change in service providers. According to the budget book: “We anticipate the overall budget in 2014 to be reduced based upon competitive bids that have been received.”
The city’s library budget will be trimmed 7.25 percent (more than $54,000). A big part of the decrease is due to staff hired at entry-level positions replacing recently retired employees.
The budget book says, “In 2014, we are proposing an increase in the salary of the Library Director position in order to be more competitive in securing a Library Director. During the ‘Year of the Plan’ our library focus will be in moving the new library project forward with a location, capital cost sharing strategies and community involvement toward an innovative library building.”
The Library Board extended an offer to a library director candidate in late December, and it was accepted, but the city has not yet released the name or salary of the newly hired employee.
Culture/ Recreation/ Education/ Misc.
The culture/ recreation/ education/ miscellaneous portion of the budget will remain at $67,650 for 2014. This portion of the budget includes $16,000 for cable TV, $15,000 for the New Richmond Cemetery Association, $13,000 for the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce, $10,000 for Fun Fest and other celebrations, $4,500 for VFW Post 10818 and $4,000 for the New Richmond Senior Center.
According to the budget book: “We have increased the total contribution for VFW Post 10818 in anticipation of the 2014 Veterans Wall. If the Wall project doesn’t occur, we would recommend that the $3,000 go back to the Chamber of Commerce for 2014.”
The Parks department budget will see a decrease of 15.53 percent (nearly $70,100). The main reason for the hefty decrease is that the city will not replace the Park Supervisor position. That position’s duties will now fall to newly hired Public Works Director Jeremiah Wendt.
The budget book says, “We are proposing a new FTE Public Works employee, which will assist in the maintenance of streets, water, wastewater and parks. Those costs will be spread out to these various departments.”
Health & Social Services
The Health & Social Services area of the budget will see a decrease of 4.28 percent ($539). The city will not fund a health officer in 2014, because the position has been under-utilized in the past, according to the budget book. Funding for Animal Control remains unchanged from 2013.
The Economic Development and Planning section of the budget will see a decrease of 21.4 percent (nearly $36,800), primarily due to staffing.
According to the budget book: “The Community Development and IT Manager position will officially take over as the Community Development Director in 2014. An outside Planning Consultant will be utilized for planning applications in 2014. Additionally, a portion of the new Administrative Assistant position will be funded as part of the 2014 budget. Economic Development will have $20,000 for marketing and $100,000 for economic development incentives to utilize from the proceeds of the sale of the WeTEC building.”
Outlay expenditures will decrease 49.65 percent ($35,500). The only line item in this section will be $36,000 for future capital purchases.