Council works to set 2013 budgetRed Wing City Council plans to finalize its budget at a special meeting Monday and took the opportunity this week to work on final tweaks.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
Red Wing City Council plans to finalize its budget at a special meeting Monday and took the opportunity this week to work on final tweaks.
“We’re at the end of a process that’s taken a majority of the year,” Council Administrator Kay Kuhlmann said.
Most of the discussion at Monday’s City Council meeting focused on a set of proposed operational changes.
Key among them was hiring a new police officer. Some council members proposed halving the budget for the position, meaning the person would start July 1 and dropping the amount for 2013 from $84,768 to $42,384.
“It’s going to take us that long to get to that point anyway,” Council member Lisa Bayley said of delaying the start date.
Police Chief Roger Pohlman said adding back officers is important as calls for service rise and officers have less time to spend at each call.
“We’re down three police officers. This is the critical time to bring back at least one of them,” Council member Dean Hove said. “This has been an ongoing battle for a long time.”
Council member Peggy Rehder said she did not want the officer position to get pushed to the future again and strongly advocated for its inclusion in the 2013 budget. Mayor Dennis Egan, however, said he would like to wait for the 2014 budget to include the police officer.
The council came to a general consensus on other operations changes. The negotiated plan trims the proposed library book budget and funds for nuclear waste issues such as lobbying and drops marketing and branding efforts for next year.
The proposal discussed Monday trims about $82,500 out of operations and could shift instead to capital improvements. That change was agreeable to Egan.
“Two years ago it was all about the need to get rid of this backlog of projects that have been deferred,” he said. “The commitment was that we would first and foremost take care of those to the best ability without adding to the overall costs of the city.”
“Really we’re not talking about huge numbers here,” Bayley noted. “We’re talking about philosophical discussions.”
The changes stemmed from commitments from council members to aim for a lower levy than the preliminary number adopted this fall.
They set the preliminary amount at $14.48 million, up from slightly more than $13 million for 2012.
“I think we’ve made a commitment to lower this amount,” Bayley said.
But because of major investments going on at Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island nuclear plant, there is an opportunity to capitalize on the company’s increased property taxes while not significantly affecting other taxpayers.
“While our levy may be increasing a larger dollar amount than typical, we’re seeing property owners generally see a reduction,” Finance Director Marshall Hallock said.
The council also discussed capital budget items such as road and building improvements, a fire tanker to bring water to rural areas, upgrades to camera and sound equipment at City Hall and designing the proposed west Red Wing fire station.
“Having design plans opens you up to grants you’re not eligible for if you haven’t taken that step,” Kuhlmann said of the fire station. City officials hope to have projects included in any state bonding bill as well.
In order to catch up on infrastructure maintenance, repairs and improvements, the city is planning to bond.
Egan noted other issues such as the incinerator and Mississippi National Golf Links still need to be sorted out. The proposed 2013 budget includes typical funding for the golf course, Kuhlmann said.
“That gives you the flexibility to make changes mid-year,” she said.
The City Council plans to finalize its budget at a special meeting Monday night after its truth-in-taxation hearing, scheduled for 7 p.m. at City Hall.