NEW ULM The New Ulm City Council moved closer to finalizing its proposed cuts to the 2013 City of New Ulm budget during a Tuesday work session.
The Council is working to trim a 19 percent maximum property tax levy increase. For 2012, the City faced a 15 percent maximum levy, which the Council cut to a 0.9 percent increase.
The City faces a $1.085 million increase from this year, with each $55,000 reduction roughly equaling a 1 percent decrease in the tax levy increase. The Council found making cuts challenging because it eliminated all the obvious cuts for the 2012 budget.
The first cut the Council preliminarily approved was changing the City's policy of paying for roughly half of the street construction work with Street Department funds instead of bonding for it. The policy was implemented because bonding for projects that don't last the life of the bond is not a preferred financial practice, as well as keeping special assessments for street reconstruction at roughly $2,800 per lot. The proposal suggested putting up to $375,000 back into bonding over four years at $100,000 annually. Any potential increase in the amount specially assessed for the street project will not go into effect for homeowners until 2014 and beyond.
The Council approved saving $150,000 by having the Park and Recreation Department pay for the Johnson Park restroom compliance project out of its own budget. The City also approved seeking tens of thousands of dollars in cuts by setting targeted overall budget reductions for certain departments. The reductions would be made up by the departments individually finding savings in their sub-budget in whatever worked for them. Examples included cutting $30,000 overall from the Police Department and the Street Department.
Finally, the Council approved approximately $100,000 in reductions to the Administration Department budget. In addition to ending one custodial position, the cuts discontinue or greatly reduce several subsidies. Examples were saving $3,000 by ending the Lind House subsidy and saving $1,500 by ending the Wanda Gag House subsidy. The subsidies for the Municipal Band and the New Ulm Battery were not cut. Discussion indicated that subsidies for the Concord Singers and the Retail Economic Development should also stay.
Similarly, the Council shot down proposals to save $150,000 by closing the City's indoor ice rinks during the summer months and saving $75,000 by withholding a 3 percent raise to non-union workers.
The City will receive $55,000 more in revenues for 2013 due to changes in how property taxes are calculated.
Because the tentatively approved cuts so far bring the total property tax increase down to approximately 5.2 percent, taxpayers would see an approximate 4.2 percent increase.
The Council has until the final public budget session in December before making a final decision. Public input will be sought at that time.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)