Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, December 14, 1998

Budget down but taxes up in Lester


Lester Prairie City Council held its truth in taxation meeting last Monday with minimal input from the public.

According to the council, the city will see a decrease in its total budget. The 1998 budget was $1,032,243. The projected budget for 1999 is $966,881, showing a 7 percent decrease.

Property taxes are a different story. The 1998 figure was $204,100. The 1999 figure is a 16 percent increase to $236,000.

The increase is due to a number of specific costs. They are as follows: The park will require $8,935, the police $6,659, the storm sewer $3,545, the comprehensive plan $8,000, and the lighting project $8,000. Other expenses were allotted to overall shortfalls.

The other reason for the property tax increase is because the rates from the state have been changed.

The valuation for homes has increased and so a greater tax has been designated.

While property taxes for homes have increased, those for businesses have decreased. Council Member Galen Hochstien says it's a problem that many towns are facing.

Public discussion of the budget and property taxes was sparse. One citizen asked for a copy of the comprehensive annual financial report and received a report from 1997. The 1998 report is not yet available.

Some discussion also concerned the 1998 figures for the revenue and expenses of the park in 1998. The revenue was $56,500, but the expense was $77,180.

Council Member Kay Jepson explained that in previous years she had under-budgeted the park, and had the city had not foreseen routine maintenance. Jepson warned that the problems of routine maintenance at the park need to be addressed.

New tree ordinance

In the regular meeting, the council discussed a tree ordinance to specify height and spacing of trees.

Jepson brought a sample ordinance from the Arbor Day Foundation with adjustments made to the wording. The adjustments included wording on the city's right to trim trees for power lines and other such needs.

The minimum height of trees hanging over streets was also changed from eight to 14 feet to accommodate trucks and city equipment.

Also, the spacing of trees was also discussed. The original recommendation in the sample ordinance was 35 feet. Jepson noted that Lester Prairie had some small lots, and that it should be changed to 30 feet.

The change prompted a discussion, including comments from a forester at the meeting, who emphasized the importance of spacing. The concerns were about roots competing for space as well as canopies. It was emphasized that roots competing for water may grow into sidewalks.

The ordinance was passed with the adjustment. Mayor Ed Mlynar said that it could be changed further if necessary.

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