By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN A 1.7 percent property tax levy increase was approved for Winsted’s preliminary 2015 budget Tuesday evening.
“This is the high point,” Council Member Max Fasching said, explaining that the budget could decrease before final approval in December.
The preliminary levy amount is $1,122,654, which is $19,222 higher than 2014 and 2013.
“It’s certainly not going up at a very rapid rate,” City Administrator Clay Wilfahrt said, noting that in 2011 and 2012, the levies each totaled $1,117,629.
City revenue (which is collected through property taxes, local government aid (LGA), and fees/permits/grants/fines) is expected to go up about $21,000 in 2015.
Planned spending for 2015 is $1,672,737, which is nearly $50,000 higher than the amount approved for 2014.
Increases are mainly due to health insurance costs, wage increases, donations/contributions, funding for downtown revitalization, and a $20,000 increase in the fire department’s capital improvement fund.
The council authorized the city’s engineering firm, Bolton & Menk, to take the next steps toward wastewater treatment facility improvements, including a discharge permit application, an environmental assessment worksheet, a non-degredation review, and completion of the preliminary and final design.
“The previous project was ready to go forward, and then we added this other component,” city engineer Jake Saulsbury said, explaining that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) made discharge requirements more stringent after the project had been planned.
Now, a tertiary treatment is required, to remove fine particles, nitrates, and phosphates.
Most of the previous design work will still be used.
Permitting and final design is expected to be complete by the end of 2014, with construction beginning late spring/early summer of 2015.
Saulsbury estimated six to eight months for construction, putting the completion date in fall 2015.
“We’ll be able to keep the plant operational during that time,” he added.
The council had a special closed meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday to discuss Wilfahrt’s employment agreement. Another closed meeting took place Aug. 19 for Wilfahrt’s annual performance review. At that meeting, council members unanimously approved a 3.5 percent raise for Wilfahrt, effective Aug. 20.
His new annual salary is $74,735.
When Wilfahrt began his position in September 2013, his starting salary was $68,500. Six months later, his annual salary was raised 5.3 percent, to $72,208.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• heard a report of recent public works activities, summarized as follows: installed flags for holidays, sprayed weeds in parks, placed and maintained flower boxes, installed street banners, maintained parks, painted crosswalks and parking lines downtown, changed oil in police department vehicles, etc.
• heard that dead trees removed from Hainlin Park did not show signs of disease. According to Wilfahrt, the trees likely died due to age and harsh weather conditions.
• heard that resident Bert Hertzog was confused about comments made at the Aug. 19 council meeting. At that meeting, Hertzog had voiced concern about the Winsted Summer Festival fun run taking place on city streets. At Tuesday’s meeting, Hertzog asked Mayor Steve Stotko to clarify a comment he made about parades being moved to the Luce Line. Stotko confirmed that he was not serious when he made the comment.
Police Chief Justin Heldt stated that the police department, fire department, and sheriff’s office handled traffic control during the fun run this summer.
“It was well taken care of,” Heldt said, adding that a slow-moving vehicle followed the last participants to ensure safety.