New Richmond’s budget ax falls gentlyAs the 2013 budget process began, New Richmond city officials had a few goals in mind. The most significant goal was to decrease the city’s overall tax levy by 2 percent when compared to 2012.
By: By Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
As the 2013 budget process began, New Richmond city officials had a few goals in mind. The most significant goal was to decrease the city’s overall tax levy by 2 percent when compared to 2012.
Through a series of cuts, new ideas and wage freezes for all city employees, city employees have proposed a budget that meets the city council’s early goals.
According to Mike Darrow, city administrator and utilities manager, the proposed budget will be considered at the Dec. 10 council meeting.
“The 2013 budget was drafted with a lot of input and hard work,” he said. “One of the first goals was to reduce our budget while maintaining services. City staff played an integral part of the budget process at the front-end and provided additional suggestions and thoughts.”
A major component of the city’s effort to operate more efficiently is an ongoing restructuring of employee duties and responsibilities, Darrow noted.
“The City of New Richmond has a committed group of professionals that are working to make this city operate under our own definition of the ‘new normal,’” he said. “What this means is more cross-training, internal support and solution-based strategies for all departments. 2013 will see an even greater commitment by the city to provide even greater services with lower budget levels in some cases.”
The city staff also is committed to focusing more on grant writing and in-house projects over the next year, Darrow said, in hopes of saving taxpayer money. Employees are also working to eliminate redundancies in the local government and thus reducing the overall cost of operating the city.
Another key component to the city’s operation will be a greater emphasis on community involvement in some areas, Darrow said. Among the ideas being discussed is an effort to find a community organization willing to take on downtown flowers or some landscaping projects rather than paying for them through general tax funds.
Darrow said he’d also like to develop a “stock sale” concept providing local residents a chance to donate toward specific projects – such as parks or a new library.
Darrow, who is going through his first budgeting process in New Richmond since his hiring as administrator earlier this year, said he’s been impressed with the effort of everyone involved.
“Many times budget decisions can divide communities or departments,” he said “I am extremely proud of the 2013 budget process and the input, energy and dedication that our staff, city council and commissions put into this budget.”
The preliminary budget calls for a 13 percent cut in the general government budget, which was accomplished in part with a decision to not hire a new clerk/treasurer following the depature of Joe Bjelland and a decision to reduce the number of seasonal employees who are hired. The cut comes despite an expected 11.7 percent rise in health insurance costs for next year.
There will be a slight increase in the economic development budget to reflect the city’s renewed focus on job creation and business assistance. The budgets for police, fire and public safety will remain at 2012 levels, while the parks and library budgets will see slight budget declines.
Among the city’s planned capital improvement projects for 2013 will be the fire remodeling project ($528,000), street improvements and blacktopping ($125,000), and Doughboy Trail development.