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Lester Prairie City Council begins budget planning process early
May 15, 2017

By Ivan Raconteur

LESTER PRAIRIE, MN – Adam Birkholz, Lester Prairie community development coordinator, presented a proposed plan for preparing Lester Prairie’s 2018 budget during Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Birkholz urged the council to consider the following five questions as it prepares the city’s budget:

• What should the current and future tax levies look like?

• What levels of services should the city perform and provide now and in the future?

• What is the city’s acceptable level of debt?

• What are the future equipment and infrastructure needs (roads, utilities, buildings, etc.) and how will they be funded?

• What are the city’s goals for future growth?

Birkholz said he believes it is important for the city to continue its efforts to encourage growth in the housing, commercial, and industrial markets. However, he noted the greatest impact to the city’s tax base would be in the commercial and industrial markets.

He suggested identifying opportunities to expand commercial and industrial sectors should be priorities of the Economic Development Authority (EDA) and the city council.

Birkholz provided a summary of the city’s tax levy from 2010 to 2017.

The levy increased in four of those years, decreased in two, and remained flat in one.

Birkholz also provided a summary of the city’s net tax rated from 2011 to 2017. It ranged from a low of 71.52 percent in 2011 to a high of 99.94 percent in 2013. The net tax rate was 87.05 in 2017.

The city’s capital improvement plan (CIP) identifies projects and equipment that will support existing projects and services, Birkholz noted.

He suggested the CIP should be used to prioritize the use of the city’s limited resources by identifying which items will be funded, how they will be paid for, and when they will be purchased.

He noted the capital planning process provides the city with a framework to make decisions regarding future city needs, while considering the city’s financial capability.

Under the planning process proposed by Birkholz, department heads will receive the past year’s CIP forms and data.

Each department head will update the information and make any new capital purchase requests. Projects will be ranked on a priority scale of 1 to 5.

The initial draft will be reviewed by the city coordinator and department heads, and corrections and adjustments will be made.

The preliminary CIP will be submitted to the city council for review on or before Tuesday, Aug. 1.

Birkholz proposed a budget time line beginning mid-June, with departments and committees beginning to develop proposed budgets.

The council will review proposed budgets and discuss the preliminary levy in July.

Additional budget meetings will take place in August, and the preliminary levy will be adopted in September.

The city council will finalize the budget in November, and adopt the final budget and levy in December.

The council expressed appreciation for the plan Birkholz presented and accepted the time line.

The council then scheduled budget meetings Tuesday, July 25 at 7 p.m., and Tuesday, Aug. 22 at 7 p.m.

Pool staff approved

The council approved 2017 pool staff, including:

• April Lee, manager

• Tasha Schiedel, assistant manager

• Morgan Roush, Water Safety Instructor (WSI)

• Andrew Jackson, guard/WSI

• Clara Leverich, guard/WSI

• Blair Jilek, guard

• Evan Lee, guard

• Trevor Schuette, guard

• Joey Mochinski, guard

• Tiffanie Shimanski, water aerobics.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• acknowledged receipt of a $3,108 franchise fee from Mediacom.

• noted the planning and zoning commission is working on an ordinance regarding building maintenance and appearance to public nuisances and amending the city code accordingly. The purpose of the ordinance is to “enhance the supply of safe, sanitary, and adequate housing for its citizens and to prevent the deterioration of existing housing in the city.”

• approved moving forward with a land appraisal for the city property on Maple Street South at a cost of $400. This will allow the city to market the property for development.

• confirmed the city’s willingness to continue to perform day-to-day maintenance of the Dakota Rail Regional Trail corridor within the city as it is currently doing after the trail is paved (this does not include asphalt maintenance, which will be done by McLeod County).

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