Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Aug. 16, 1999

LP council starts buget-cutting work

By Luis Puga

The first draft of the year 2000 budget was presented at the Lester Prairie City Council's meeting last Monday, showing a 47 percent increase.

Council Member Galen Hochstein thought the budget needed to be decreased by $60,000 to $75,000 for it to pass the public's approval. He began by going over cuts he suggested after reviewing the budget.

However, some items could not be cut. The city has budgeted about $40,000 to replace the sewer line on Elm Street between First and Second Avenues.

This money was proposed to be cut originally, but Council Member Rollie Bruckschen opposed the cut, saying the people who live with the overflowing sewer line have been waiting too long to have it fixed.

Towards the end of the month, a camera will be sent through the line to determine the extent of the problem. Bruckschen said if a patch can be placed temporarily on the line, the money could be cut, but he wants to see the extent of the problem.

Other items were also discussed. The salary for a proposed grant writer was cut from $20,000 to $15,000. Initially, Hochstein proposed cutting the salary down to just $5,000.

Mayor Eric Angvall felt that the money should be left in the budget due to the public's desire for a grant writer.

"You keep hearing that they (the public) want you to do this, want you to do that. OK, let's show them what it costs," he said.

Hochstein said the cuts were tough, but have to be made or the public would not accept the budget.

"For years, we've been the second highest taxed community in McLeod County," he said. "We are now no longer the second highest. We're down more in the median. We can raise a little each year, but I don't want to see us second highest again."

Bruckschen felt that an increase, if necessary, would eventually be accepted by the public. Angvall said if high tax rates stopped people from coming to cities, places like Waconia, Hutchinson, or Winsted would not be growing so rapidly.

He said, "It isn't just taxes, it's what you get for those taxes."

He added that the council should be careful not to cut regular maintenance and upkeep. "I never once got a complaint for planting trees or taking care of the park," he said.

Council Member Ron Foust said he was concerned that no money was set aside for economic growth. He observed, "It seems that we've been in the status quo for 10 to 25 years."

Bruckschen commented on general donations to patch holes in the budget. "In a town the size of Lester Prairie, you can go and ask these organizations only for so much money, and that's it," he said.

Hochstein observed that even an increase of $5,000 may not be enough to get many projects done, but he felt that the citizens would notice even that size of an increase in their taxes.

"That's why you can't do that. That's why it looks like we are doing nothing as a city because we can't raise it (the levy) that much," he said.

The amount of cuts from the budget by the end of the evening was $36,500, leaving about a 30 percent increase in taxes.

Hochstein said the cuts were tough to make. The general consensus was that the council would seek to make more cuts before the budget is finalized.

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