BY STARRLA CRAY
WINSTED, MN With Winsted’s 2016 budget on track to be finalized in December, city officials have been reviewing plans for sewer and water rates, equipment purchases, and more.
A 6-percent increase is recommended for both the monthly sewer minimum (from $7.20 in 2015 to $7.63 in 2016) and the sewer rate fees per 1,000 gallons (from $9.10 in 2015 to $9.65 in 2016).
“The increase in fund balance will provide greater capital reserves, which may be used to finance the wastewater treatment facility project, and slightly reduce future rate increases needed to finance debt service of the improvements to the wastewater treatment facility,” City Administrator Dan Tienter noted in a memo presented at Tuesday’s city council work session.
The increase is less than last year, when sewer rates went up 8 percent.
For water, city staff recommends a 2-percent increase. This would bring the monthly water minimum up from $5.87 in 2015 to $5.99 in 2016, and the water rate (per thousand gallons) up from $3.24 to $3.30.
Water sales in Winsted have been declining in recent years, and the 2-percent boost will help offset this.
For police and public works capital equipment purchase planning, Tienter provided council members with a document detailing what may be needed from 2016 through 2020.
The document includes recommended replacement dates for vehicles and other pieces of equipment, potential funding sources, and a description of the expenditure purpose, justification, and impact on maintenance and city revenues.
“I like the description of what has to be replaced, when, and why,” Council Member Bonnie Quast said.
Council Member Max Fasching voiced concern over the list, and the council’s ability to eliminate or postpone the purchase of items that may not be needed.
“Every single year as part of the capital budgeting process, the council will have the opportunity to vet what’s included in the CIP [capital improvement plan],” Tienter said, explaining that the document doesn’t constitute budget authority, and purchases would only be made with council approval.
Winsted’s next budget review work session will start at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17 in the Lewis Room at Winsted City Hall.
Winsted citizens seeking information about floodplain requirements will have an opportunity to ask questions during a public meeting Monday, Nov. 16 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Vollmer Room at Winsted City Hall.
The city has mailed a letter to affected residents.
The meeting will be conducted by city engineering firm Bolton & Menk, at a cost not to exceed $2,750.
Tienter noted that Winsted has gone “above and beyond” to help residents with floodplain concerns, and this meeting will conclude the city’s involvement.
“More often than not, this is a private matter between the property owner and FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency],” he said.
Winsted Police Chief Justin Heldt gave an update of several activities his department has been involved with since spring, a few of which are summarized below:
• taught Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE);
• had a bike rodeo;
• talked to students about crime scene investigation;
• provided security at Winstock;
• had Winsted Night Out; and
• helped Winsted Elementary students participate in National Walk to School Day. For this event, buses parked at Glenn’s SuperValu, and students walked the rest of the way to school.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• accepted a price of $3,565 for a city sign to be constructed by Millerbernd Process Systems and installed at the property of the public works and fire department buildings. Millerbernd gave the city a $2,355 discount. Council Member Max Fasching voted in opposition, stating that although he appreciates the discount, he would have preferred to improve the existing sign.
• approved the hiring of college student Leigha Felder as a temporary part-time administrative assistant, at $10 per hour for up to 40 hours per week between Dec. 18 and Jan. 1.
• accepted a donation of two trees from Jim and Evelyn Fowler that have been planted on city property.
• accepted the resignation of Steve Ebert from the reserve officer list for Winsted Police Department.
• appointed Robert Hamilton to the Downtown Vibrancy Commission.
• scheduled a truth-in-taxation hearing for Tuesday, Dec. 1, during the regular council meeting at 6 p.m. in the council chambers.
• heard that Winsted’s credit rating through Standard & Poor’s went from A+ down to A Stable. (The “Stable” designation means the rating is not expected to change in the next two years, according to Tienter.)
One reason for the downgrade is due to the city’s anticipated wastewater treatment facility project, which will result in a high level of debt.
Winsted also has a highly concentrated tax base, with the top 10 taxpayers constituting 31 percent of the city’s tax capacity.
“If we were to diversify the city’s economy more, that would likely result in a rating increase,” Tienter said.
Good points about Winsted noted in the rating process was that the city has a well-positioned fund balance, and high budget flexibility, allowing for fund transfers to different areas as needed.
“‘A’ is still a very good rating,” Tienter said.