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City proposes 1.3% levy increase

WORTHINGTON -- Wrapping up its second day of budget meetings Wednesday morning, the Worthington City council recommended a 1.3 percent increase in the levy for 2014.

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The official pre-certification will happen at the Sept. 9 council meeting.

That proposed increase, however, is only to cover the increase in debt services for the year. Because of other factors, that doesn't necessarily mean there will be a flat tax increase for every community member.

"Not necessarily," Director of Finance Brian Kolander explained. "There's been some growth in the community. The latest projection we got there was I think about 1.9 percent, but the numbers aren't final. In essence, the difference is negligible."

The total for the bond/special levy is $936,948. That's a $41,828 increase over last year.

"It's principal and interest repayments on past bonds," Kolander said.

The final certification will be November or December this year, where the number could even go down. However, any increase will be no more than 1.3 percent.

According to Kolander, some people could even see a reduction in property taxes, while others could see an increase depending on property tax values.

In 2013, the levy certified was $3,147,136, which included two separate levies -- the general purpose levy and the special tax levy. For 2014, the proposed general purpose levy is $2,251,101, meaning the entire amount of the levy is $3,188,049.

"We've gotten more aid, but we have a lot more projects," Kolander said. "We have a lot of new things in the budget, too. We did get more aid, but there are a lot of one-time projects in there that have eaten them up."

So, even though the city will actually spend more money in 2014 than it did in 2013, other revenue sources -- such as local government aid (LGA) -- will offset those costs for the taxpayers.

"Spending will go up because we have more LGA," council member Ron Wood said.

The general fund budget for the city of Worthington is around $7.2 million.

Meetings began Aug. 23 with a four-hour session. Wednesday was slightly shorter -- slightly more than two and a half hours -- but the council was able to wrap up the process.

On Wednesday, the council heard budgets from Prairie View Golf Links, public works, Memorial Auditorium and the liquor store.

Tom Jansa of Dakota Golf Management was on hand to present the budget. One of the biggest additions for the budget was $52,000 for a rough mower. The one the course currently has is getting old and needs replaced.

"It is a really important piece of equipment," Jansa said.

Cart leases and usage were also discussed during the meeting.

Mayor Alan Oberloh asked about the potential for leasing the piece of equipment.

"If there's only seven years of life, why don't we lease it?" Oberloh asked.

The golf course staff was going to look at that possibility and return to the council.

During the public works budget presentation, additional money was proposed for the tree budget, including replacement trees. A program to replace boulevard trees was discussed, but no decision was made.

The budget also addressed some additions to the Beach Nook. The council agreed the operation of the business has been excellent this year.

"I think that young lady (WHS junior Jessica Arnt) is doing a great job," Oberloh said.

"Hopefully the individual down there continues," City Parks Superintendent Scott Rosenberg said. "The restrooms have been up kept very well. It's been very good shape this year."

Public works did ask for money for a new water heater at Olson Park, which has been causing problems since early summer. It provides hot water for the showers and restrooms at the campground.

Margaret Hurlbut Vosburgh, manager at Memorial Auditorium, reported she was in the process of replacing the technical director at the auditorium.

Dan Wycoff, liquor store manager, said the new cooler added in April has been a huge success for the store.

"It's a lot more efficient, so I guarantee the energy costs are down and the beer is extremely cold," he said.

The sales have been steadily increasing each year, according to Wycoff.

"I will celebrate my third full year of being here and we're going to be real close to a $1 million increase in those three years," he said. "We're a little higher in inventory than we were three years ago. It's a positive thing for the community and the city. The money is being used in a proper manner."

The council approved to use $27,500 from reserves to the 2013 budget to complete modifications from the front-end checkouts. That will add a third stand to the front of the store to handle the high-traffic times. It will also add a separate machine to handle credit card transactions.

"They will be able to swipe their own card, so we're not touching their card," Wycoff said.