For the second year in a row Granite Falls City Council has voted not to raise property taxes. And for the second year in a row, council members attributed their ability to hold the line to increases in Local Government Aid.
As is required by state statute, council members set the preliminary levy ahead of a September 15 deadline during this week's council meeting held Tuesday, due to the of Labor Day holiday.
The council has the opportunity to lower the preliminary levy figure before the final levy is accepted by December 19, but it cannot raise the preliminary levy without special legislative action.
For years annual cuts in state aid that occurred in conjunction with a steady rise in expenses, forced the city to make budgets and increase property taxes in order to maintain basic services. The trend shifted in 2013 as the city received $86,046 in aid from the state and then $190,000 for 2014.
The latter figure came about as a result of a sizable overhaul of the program this past legislative session. According to council members, legislators have told cities that they should consider the level increase a one time deal that may be best suited to fund one-time projects.
While some of the funds will help the council hold firm on property taxes, city representatives also discussed undertaking a one-time project––for instance, a sidewalk rehabilitation project.
The total tax levy is a composite of the general fund and debt levies. In 2014 the general fund –– which is dedicated to financing annual services such as those performed by the public works and the police and fire departments –– will remain equal to both the 2012 and 2013 levies of $824,453. Meanwhile, the 2014 debt levy –– used for special projects like street and other infrastructure improvements –– saw a marginal increase of .17 percent, or $2,600, to $1,528,553.
Overall the General Fund will increase from $2.21 million in 2013 to approximately $2.39 million for 2014, which is a difference of approximately $189,000. Major increases in expenses include a 17.25 percent group health insurance hike and those attributed to salaries and fringe benefits.
Also of note is an increase to the Designated Fund Reserve of approximately $100,000 to $190,000, which City Manager Bill Lavin said was largely the result of the additional LGA and tighter bookkeeping practices.
In other news:
•Council members heard a monetary request from Peg Furshong on behalf of the Granite Area Arts Council (GAAC). According to Furshong, the council is in the process of finalizing a purchase agreement with local non-profit Granite Falls Riverfront Revitalization (GFRR) that will allow it take ownership of the K.K. Berge Building.
Furshong requested $6,400 in city contributions to help facilitate the purchase of the building, which would be sold to the arts council for $30,000.
Page 2 of 2 - Furshong also explained that the arts council wanted to continue to allow the building to be utilized as community space, while GFRR was not interested in the landlord business.
Council members said they would consider the request before finalizing the city's budget in December.
•Council renewed a contract for custodial services in city buildings with Jodi Lalim in the amount of $685 per month, plus $15 per hour of additional work requested.