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City budget talks ramp up

The Red Wing City Council is digging into the budget process for next year.

Members met at a workshop Monday to talk about the general fund and the plans for setting the 2014 budget.

Staff had a draft budget but numbers will change as the process continues up until the early December adoption, Finance Director Marshall Hallock said.

The city faces a one-year levy limit established by the Legislature for next year that will work out to be about $14.15 million, Hallock said.

The draft budget has the city levying its limit and funds for debt service, which is not included in the state limit. The council could consider using some fund balance money to ease the property tax increase, Hallock said.

The preliminary levy is slated to be set at the Sept. 9 City Council meeting.

Many questions and discussions still remain that affect the 2014 budget. Those include the future plans for Mississippi National Golf Links, the city's incinerator and the Goodhue County Historical Society building.

The Port Authority and city also plan to continue discussions about the economic development agency's financial situation and potential changes that could impact the city's budget.

Some other issues the council had said it would like to consider during budgeting, such as contributing to Fourth of July fireworks, funding for Red Wing Downtown Main Street and additional funds for the summer recreation programming, were not included in the budget draft.

With a number of major projects coming up, including rebuilding Highway 61 and the Eisenhower Bridge, the council could consider adding a staff person who would help with grants and funding and also with succession planning and coordination.

"I think this is very measurable," Council member Mike Schultz said. The position would be evaluated on whether the person brings in enough in funds to pay for the work, council members and staff said.

The city also is considering increasing the volunteer coordinator's hours and adding part-time clerical support to some offices.

"I think this is appropriate," Council President Lisa Bayley said, but added they should be careful to only add positions where needed.

Council member Peggy Rehder said the city should look at adding back police officers as well.

"I don't think we've adequately taken care of our police department," Rehder said. She said officers are being stretched thin and also noted the city is losing experience as longtime department employees retire or leave.

"It's a concern," Police Chief Roger Pohlman said. Officers are working overtime and the department wants to be sure they have support, especially when responding to domestic and other more dangerous calls.

The council plans to have a few more workshops to continue discussions and go over plans before the 2014 budget must be approved in early December.

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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