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Local municipalities OK preliminary 2014 levies

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news Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON — With the Sept. 15 deadline past, city councils around the region have approved preliminary levies for 2014.

Windom was one of the few municipalities in the area to vote against increasing the levy this year. Instead, its 2013 levy will remain unchanged.

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Windom City Administrator Steve Nasby attributed the council’s decision to three factors: receiving an increase in local government aid, maintaining a sufficient balance in the general fund reserve and restructuring the city’s debt.

“It’s been a combination of those things that allowed us to set our maximum levy at a zero percent increase,” Nasby said.

He added that while the community did work with the school district this year to add a school resource officer, the city’s cost was kept minimal as funding for the position was split between the city and the school district.

“We had been looking at keeping the status quo,” Nasby said. “We didn’t add any new initiatives.”

Last year, the city increased the levy by 2.98 percent. Like many communities, Nasby said the Windom City Council has been mindful of city spending.

“Our area, and like a lot of the state, is coming out of the economic downturn, so the council has been very cognitive of that and is watching the city’s bottom line and how it impacts taxpayers,” Nasby said.

He noted that this year’s decision to maintain the previous levy limit is not indicative of future decisions the council may make.

“We’ll need to look at it again next year, and we’ll see where we’re at,” he said.

The levy limits recently approved by city councils are preliminary and can be lowered, though not increased, before they are certified in December.

“You're looking at communities that put in a percent, but at the end of the day, when they adopt the final levy, they may be lower than that number,” Nasby said.

While the Windom City Council discussed increasing the levy to give themselves “some wiggle room,” it ultimately decided the current levy amount was sufficient.

While there have been other communities statewide that voted to maintain or decrease the 2014 levy compared to 2013, many other local municipalities will be increasing their levy limit this year.

Luverne City Council set the preliminary levy at $1,484,357, reflecting a 4.93 increase over the 2013 levy. City Administrator John Call explained the council’s decision was largely due to debt service to cover the cost of a new fire pumper truck.

“We’re replacing a 1989 pumper, and the new debt service is $101,512 per year,” Call said. “That is basically the reason for our increase.”

He added that while Luverne’s levy will most likely increase, the city’s general fund has remained steady and will not be higher in 2014. The only increase will be in the debt service of more than $100,000 for the new fire truck.

The Slayton City Council also approved a preliminary 1.48 percent increase in 2014 levy limit -- down significantly from last year’s 6.45 percent increase.

City Administrator Josh Malchow attributed the lower percentage to an increase in local government aid from the state of Minnesota compared to 2013.

“We were also able to budget around $20,000 in savings because the state passed a sales tax exemption for municipalities,” Malchow added.

The Pipestone City Council passed a preliminary 4 percent increase and set the 2014 levy at $1,768,579. The Jackson City Council also approved a levy increase and anticipates setting their 2014 levy at $9,200,194, a 5.71 percent increase for the city.

The Worthington City Council approved a preliminary 1.3 percent levy increase and anticipates setting the 2014 levy at $3,188,049.

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