Archived Story

Council to vote on levy, budget for 2014

Published 10:03am Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Albert Lea City Council is slated to vote Monday on the levy and budget for 2014.

The council is considering a zero percent increase in the general fund levy and a 6.74 percent increase in the debt service levy. The debt service levy represents projects the city has to issue bonds for, including the Broadway reconstruction project, the retrofit of City Hall’s HVAC system and street overlay projects in 2013.

The general fund operating levy would be at $4.76 million with no increase, and the debt service levy would be at $1.07 million if the 6.7 percent increase is approved.

But residents may not see an increase in their overall city, county and school taxes because of a shift in the tax structure, said Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams. With the value of agricultural land increasing, those type of properties will take on a greater share of the taxes countywide.

Adams said the city has an increased tax base, which is taking on some of the brunt of the increase.

With both factors considered, Adams said some people may see a small increase in their taxes, while some may see a decrease, depending on the value of their homes.

The general fund budget being considered for 2014 is $14.5 million.


Water and sewer rates

Adams said the council is considering increases in both the city’s water and sewer rates after an analysis of both the water and sewer funds last year.

He said staff are proposing a 2 percent increase in sewer rates. For water charges, the council is considering a 10 percent increase in the base charges and a 9 percent increase in the usage charges.

“Our water system we’ve known for a long time has hurt and continues to hurt,” he said.

The increase is needed to replace aging infrastructure and building a cash reserve in case of an emergency, he said. A similar increase would likely be needed next year.

An average residence that uses 1,000 cubic feet of water per month would see a difference in $2.93 per month in their utility bill, he said.


Fire call service fee

During the Monday meeting, the council will vote on various fees for the city, including whether to impose a fee when the Albert Lea Fire Department responds to structural fires.

The idea originated about a year and a half ago in a study of the Fire Department, Adams said.

He said many other cities have the fee, and it is often passed on to insurance providers.

He said the council is considering a fee of $500, though it could be larger for bigger fires that require more manpower. The fee could potentially raise between $10,000 and $15,000 a year, depending on the number of structure fires.

It would cover the inflationary costs each year of making a full-time fire department sustainable.

Adams said people can voice their opinions about the city’s budget, fees and water and sewer rates during the meeting.