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W’bago sets levy with 5.93% increase

By Staff | Dec 15, 2019

Members of the Winnebago City Council and city staff discuss the 2020 budget and tax levy amount at their meeting.

“What led to the increase in the levy rate?”

This was the question posed to the Winnebago City Council by resident and business owner James Ness during the public comment portion of the Truth in Taxation meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 10.

The city had settled on a levy rate increase of 5.93 percent for 2020.

“The closing of Corn Plus resulted in lost revenue from sewage and franchise fees,” city administrator Jacob Skluzacek explained. “And those losses really affected the budget.”

Millicent Hanson also addressed the council explaining the increased valuation of her home coupled with the tax increase concerned her.

“It is a 50 year-old house and I have not done anything to it, but the value went up,” Hanson said.

Both Ness and Hanson thanked the council for their time and efforts they have been spending working on the budget and acknowledged it is a tough task.

Following the public comment, the council proceeded to adopt a tax levy of $649,747. This is an increase of $36,397 over the 2019 budget.

The 5.93 percent increase marks the first time the levy increase has exceeded three percent since the 2017 levy. The average amount of the levy increase over the previous five years was 3.03 percent.

“We have had a lot to deal with this year,” councilman Rick Johnson said. “We hired a new administrator, began the biggest street project we have ever undertaken, bought the school and had to deal with the closing of Corn Plus and Continental Carbonics.”

With the levy passed the council proceeded with their regular meeting.

Center for Educational Development (CED) member Renee Doyle informed the council CED has added two more board members, Amber Patton and Daren Barnett.

Doyle also raised the possibility of finding someone to act as a liaison between CED and the City Council.

“I like the idea of working together with CED,” council member Calvin Howard commented. “This might be a good way to achieve better communication.”

In other matters related to the school building, the council voted to approve a lease with B and B Sanitation to rent office space at the school. The lease calls for a $300 security deposit and monthly payments of $300 and will be renewed on a month to month basis.

The council then voted to make $300 the standard monthly charge for the rental of school classrooms along with the $300 security deposit. The fee charged for holding an event in the gym will also be $300 unless liquor is involved. Serving liquor will increase the cost to $500. The council did not set a price for rental of the kitchen at this time.

In other financial matters, the council voted to pay estimate No. 8 for the NW Street and Utility Improvement Project. The amount of the payment was $710,419.5, payable to Holtmeier Construction.

With the end of the year approaching, the City Council approved various licenses contingent upon the completion of necessary paperwork.

The council voted to approve cigarette licenses for Casey’s General Store, Marketplace Foods and Dollar General.

Casey’s was also approved for an off sale 3.2 beer license.

An on sale 3.2 beer/wine combo with strong beer license was approved for Lucky Lanes.

Schooter’s and the Steel Wheel were approved for both on and off sale liquor sales. In addition, the Steel Wheel was approved for a Sunday liquor license.

Moving on to personnel matters, the council approved a three percent pay increase for three part-time non-union staff. The three library assistants were also given a three percent cost of living raise.

“All of these raises were factored into the 2020 budget,” Skluzacek explained.

A bid for cleaning services at City Hall and Muir Library was awarded to Step Inc. of Blue Earth.

The council set the meeting times for 2020 at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month except August. Due to a primary election, the August meeting will be held on Monday, Aug. 10.