By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Winsted City Council adopted the 2009 levy in the amount of $1,082,143 at Tuesday’s council meeting which is a 6.9 percent increase over the 2008 certified levy.
Following the levy approval, the council agreed to freeze all of the city’s capital expenditures and wage step increases for 2009.
Both steps were taken because of probable cuts to local government aid (LGA).
The zero percent levy increase the council had looked at in November was tossed out.
The council made the decision reluctantly.
“None of the councilmen here like to raise taxes, because when we do, we raise them for ourselves, for our families, for our friends, and for businesses,” Council Member Tom Ollig said.
“The council had the noble idea when we set out looking at the budget several months ago to have a zero percent increase for 2009,” Ollig said. “We took the proposed budget, which had the 6.9 percent increase, and we cut $73,000 from the budget.
“We were feeling pretty good and then the $5 billion deficit that the state has been experiencing was announced,” Ollig said. “Part of the balancing act the state will do will be to cut local government aid in which we depend on 50 percent for our revenue,” Ollig said.
If the City of Winsted were to lose a large amount of its local government aid, it would be necessary to go back and cut additional spending.
But Ollig pointed out that the council would know where to cut $73,000 immediately.
If the council had approved the zero percent increase, a government cut could possibly put important services in jeopardy.
Council Member Dave Mochinski said he thought the city could still cut expenses and keep the zero percent increase.
“The young people starting out are struggling, the elderly are on a fixed income, and everybody in between is worried about their jobs. I just think we should be making some cuts and we should not be raising taxes,” Mochinski said.
Everyone on the council agreed with what Mochinski said. Everyone said they would like to see the zero percent increase.
“It comes down to pay me now or pay me later,” Stotko said. “I don’t think anyone knows if we have hit the bottom of this thing (economy) or not.”
Stotko told the council raising taxes is one of the hardest things he has had to do since becoming mayor.
He added that the council could still make the cuts proposed in the zero percent increase, but put the money in reserve and watch future spending.
Council Member Tom Wiemiller remembered in previous years when the state cut funds, it was necessary to increase taxes to double digits.
“I wouldn’t want to have to do that in 2010,” Wiemiller said.
The 6.9 percent increase over the 2008 certified levy was reflected in the recent tax statements mailed to residents.
The vote was 4-1 with Mochinski voting against the increase.
Proposed increases to 2009 fee schedule
The city council scheduled a public hearing for Tuesday, Jan. 20 to consider the adoption of the 2009 fee schedule.
An increase in the following fees is being proposed:
• water rate (per thousand) is $2.20 proposed to increase to $2.50.
• sewer rate (per thousand) is $5.05 proposed to increase to $5.25.
AT&T to lease space on top of water tower
The council approved a lease agreement with AT&T Wireless to place an antenna and related equipment on top of the Winsted water tower.
AT&T will also construct an 11.5 by 20-foot utility building to house much of its equipment.
The building will be placed to the east of the water tower between the well house and the water tower.
AT&T will pay the City of Winsted $1,850 per/month in rent for a five year term that would automatically renew for three additional, five year terms. It will pay an increase of 3 percent after the second year of the initial agreement and every year after, as well.
The lease will generate an additional $22,000 in revenue for Winsted.
Council denies extension to repair code violations
A rental inspection at 145 1st Street North of four residential units Nov. 18 found serious code violations with two of the units.
The property owner, Darrell Lachermeier, asked the city for an extension to repair the more serious code violations until he learns whether he will receive grant money which may become available in the spring to assist him with this project.
The council denied his request because the code violations pose a serious safety risk for the tenants living in the building.
The code violations included structural deficiencies of a back stair/porch system and another unit requires an operable window to the exterior of the building.
Odds and Ends
In other business, the council:
• received a contribution from gambling proceeds from the Church of the Holy Trinity in the amount of $2,500 to be dedicated to the city’s park fund.
• approved the capitalization threshold for the City of Winsted asset listing to be set at $5,000.
• approved closing the city offices Friday, Dec. 26.