BY STARRLA CRAY
WINSTED, MN On a 4-1 vote, the Winsted City Council approved a levy increase of 2.98 percent for 2016.
Council members George Schulenberg, Bonnie Quast, Max Fasching, and Tom Ollig were in favor, while Mayor Steve Stotko was opposed.
After the vote, Stotko explained that he would have preferred to keep the 3.89-percent increase that had been proposed in the preliminary levy.
“I think we should have left it where it was, to pay off future debt that lies ahead,” he said, referring to large projects the city is planning.
The total levy amount is $1,156,154. The city’s total budgeted expenditures for 2016 are about $5.26 million, while revenue is expected to be about $5.14 million.
Because the city’s net tax capacity has grown, City Administrator Dan Tienter noted that some residents might see a decrease in their city property taxes in 2016, despite the levy increase.
City taxes on a $140,000 homestead with no change in valuation, for example, are estimated to decrease by $133. Homes that rose in value, however, may see an increase.
The council approved the 2016 compensation plan, as discussed in previous meetings.
Effective Jan. 1, 2016, eligible city employees will each receive a pay step increase, as well as an increase recommended after the 2015 compensation study. The total change in compensation costs to the city is just under $25,000.
At Tuesday’s work session, Tienter noted that city staff will begin preparing for the possible promotion of an existing employee to a deputy clerk position. A new person would not be hired to fill that employee’s previous duties.
“There will not be more staff at city hall,” Tienter said.
Separately, a part-time office position is planned to help fill needs at city hall, and reduce or eliminate the need for other occasional part-time help.
New fees for 2016
Fees for 2016 will be approved at the Tuesday, Jan. 5 city council meeting.
Increases to water and sewer charges are summarized below:
• Water rate (per thousand gallons) from $3.24 to $3.30
• Water minimum (per month) from $5.87 to $5.99
• Sewer rate (per thousand) from $9.10 to $10.15
• Sewer minimum (per month) from $7.20 to $8.03
Fees will also be established for any brew pubs, breweries, and microdistilleries in Winsted, and park camping permits will be $25 (previously there was no charge).
In order to help offset the city’s costs, a fee of $2,500 has been established for tax increment financing (TIF) applications, as well as for tax abatement applications.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• approved a quote from Mathews Lawn Service for $17,999 per year, for the next three lawn-mowing seasons.
• adopted a resolution to decline the Minnesota Department of resources local trail connection grant. Due to public input, the trail along Kingsley Street will be narrower than originally planned, and will not be eligible for the grant.
• adopted a resolution committing $160,000 from the city’s general fund to the industrial park project in 2016. The city council submitted this pledge in an application to the business development public infrastructure grant program, and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development requested a resolution to verify this commitment.