City proposes $15.4 million budget

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 28, 1999

A change in state law will require the City Council to hold an additional budget hearing this fall.

Saturday, August 28, 1999

A change in state law will require the City Council to hold an additional budget hearing this fall.

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While Albert Lea city staff won’t know if the proposed 2000 budget will increase the city’s tax levy and tax capacity rate until September, cities are now required to hold &uot;Levy Certification Tax Rate&uot; hearings in October if levies and tax capacities are increased.

With the proposed budget increasing 4.4 percent to $15,412,740, City Manager Paul Sparks said he expects a hearing is necessary.

&uot;Based upon preliminary estimates, I presume that we will need to hold a hearing and that there will need to be a determination that the certified levy will create a tax capacity rate increase,&uot; Sparks said.

The City Council has set an input hearing for Sept. 13 during the council’s regular Monday meeting. At this meeting, members of the public can appear to present views on what should be included, or left out of, the budget.

Sparks said the proposed budget increased $653,945 mainly because of health insurance increases.

&uot;Health insurance has become a greater and greater personal service cost item over the years,&uot; Sparks said in the budget. &uot;We experienced a 40 percent increase in our health care insurance costs, which affected every department in the city.&uot;

But Sparks said employees are paying higher than ever percentages of health care at 60 percent of the entire costs.

Further increases will also affect future pay increases and other benefits.

The city is currently negotiating contracts with its employees, but is offering 2.5 percent increase during the next two or three years.

Among some staff salaries in the proposed budget are the city manager, $83,120; police chief, $67,238; fire chief, $57,630; city engineer, $70,338; street superintendent, $49,849; park and recreation director, $59,302; librarian, $54,570; and city planner, $52,971.

The mayor receives $8,500 and council member stipends are $4,800.

Of interest:

While the most recent statistics indicate that state and federal grants provide about 51 percent of Albert Lea’s annual budget, Sparks said a greater burden could shift to city property owners, who provide about 17 percent of the budget – utility taxes provide for most of the remainder.

&uot;The percentage of the budget financed by state, federal and local funds indicates the city receives a significantly higher percentage of its financing from state aids than the average,&uot; he said, comparing Albert Lea to other non-metro communities. &uot;There is an ever stronger movement in the Legislature to change funding for cities as the metropolitan suburbs gain strength.&uot;

This would increase the burden on Albert Lea taxpayers because the city’s tax base isn’t comparable to many metro communities, he said.