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Wells preliminary levy hike at 16.26%

City council hopes to lower final increase by December meeting

October 1, 2018
Katie Mullaly - Register Staff Writer (kmullaly@faribaultcountyregister.com) , Faribault County Register

The Wells City Council has set their preliminary 2018 tax levy increase at 16.26 percent.

The increase, a total dollar amount of $178,383, will be considered as the preliminary levy increase to work with until finalized in December.

The levy was categorized into four different groups: general revenue fund, library fund, debt service fund, and capital fund.

"Keep in mind, this number can, and probably will, go down before our Truth in Taxation meeting in December," says city administrator CJ Holl. "Last year, you had a preliminary levy set at 15 percent, and the final levy was set at 12 percent. Just a reminder to folks out there, you can go down but you can't go up. So whatever percentage you set, you can go down, but you can't increase your levy. So today's levy is the big shot and as we work on that, we will want to work conservatively with that number."

Holl says this year was different with budgeting. He says he worked from the bottom up talking with staff and department heads throughout the city to gather their past history and see what the department's greatest needs were. The council also held a special work session to go over the budget on Sept. 17.

"It was really great to work with everyone and get a deeper glance into my first look into the city's budget. The really big driver to our preliminary levy number was our debt service," said Holl. "We have taken on about $3.5 million in projects the last year and we have a $2 million budget. So that debt tied to the Wells Business Park and the Sixth Street project really increases the debt service that we have to service so you'll see an increase there."

To highlight a few points to the upcoming budget, Holl mentioned the city would be getting some stuff done.

"What we can get done this coming year includes the financial capital improvement budget, taking a look into our financial capital benefits and retirement funds. We've budgeted some money for blight removal, there are not programs to assist with blight removal, so it behooves us to set a little money aside for that at this time," said Holl. "We've also decided to start a rotation of improving our picnic tables in our city parks, so each year we can purchase a few new picnic tables, rotate them and continue to get a few more in the future, as well as upgrading our park bathrooms at Half Moon Park."

Holl also stated that the city is hoping to have security upgrades to City Hall, which has dollars currently set aside in the capital fund for that project.

Another large project the Wells City Council is looking at in the upcoming year is a reconstruction of Broadway Street from Franklin to Second Street.

"From Lamperts to the Bidne building," stated Mayor David Braun.

Within Wells' library fund, the council is hoping to be able to support funding for a new copier for the library, which is currently 11 years old, and new carpeting for the children's area, which would be the last piece to the library's new flooring they have been working on previously.

"I think what we are really hoping to focus on this coming year is really working on capital planning, creating saving funds in order to set aside for emergencies or other opportunities," says Holl. "Our goal is to maintain an operating city capital budget, that way we can have good bonding rates for future projects."

With Holl's information, the council approved Resolution 2018-22, which adopted the preliminary levy. Wells' Truth in Taxation meeting is set for Monday, Dec. 10, at 6 p.m. in the Wells Community Center.

In other business, the Wells City Council also:

Approved two street closure requests including one for St. Casimir and the local Knights of Columbus' request to close portions of Broadway, Fourth Street, and First Street SW for a marathon the two groups would be hosting to support non-public education on Sept. 28, as well as closing a portion of Seventh Street SE for Open Doors United Methodist Church to use as a Trunk or Treat gathering place on Oct. 28.

Discussed a drainage issue on a portion of Seventh Street. Previously, a homeowner had addressed the council regarding work that had been done to an adjacent property. The homeowner stated he had a multitude of standing water in his back yard that was not an issue prior to his neighbors creating a gravel road.

The council directed city engineer Travis Winter to potentially create a swale to channel the water. The questions that remained: how much more work would the neighbors be doing and whether that completed work would fix the problem, and if it didn't, who would pay for the creation of the swale? The council requested both Winter, as well as the city's attorney, David Frundt, to work with the property owners in creating a solution to the issue.

Spoke with Frundt regarding Seventh Street utility access. In the past, issues of concern have been brought to the council's attention regarding a property along Seventh Street SW. Property owners have requested connection to city utilities, and due to previous agreements, have brought up questions regarding use agreement.

The council had already approved a driveway to be created to reach property behind Seventh Street SW and wondered whether they would be able to provide utilities with regards to the city's already standing agreement.

"Let's stick to the driveway for now, and once that's completed we can talk utilities," said councilman John Herman.

The council ultimately chose to give Frundt direction to work with the property owners to discuss future agreements.

Signed Resolution 2018-19: opposing the sale of strong beer, spirits and wine in grocery and convenience stores. All council members approved the resolution, except councilwoman Crystal Dulas who opposed the resolution.

 
 

 

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