The North Branch City Council approved a preliminary budget Monday night that addresses some of the city’s debt, and as a result that initial number is higher than the final budget and levy amount approved last year.
The council voted 3-2 to approve a preliminary levy of $3,886,221, which is 2.86 percent higher than the 2012 final levy.
North Branch Finance Director Richard Hill explained the specifics of the budget to the council.
He said the primary areas the levy covers are the city’s general fund; the Economic Development Authority operational fund and debt abatement levy funds.
The North Branch general fund is slated to be 2.28 percent lower than 2012 and the EDA portion of the levy is about 12.7 percent lower.
The debt and tax abatement levies, however, are increasing by about 11 percent, which accounts for the overall 2.28 percent proposed increase.
“The vast majority of this year’s proposed preliminary levy is due to the debt increases that the city has to address,” Hill said.
Council member Ron Lindquist said the city should be working to keep its property-tax levy the same as 2012.
“My feeling is we should have come in at zero – the county came in at less than zero,” he said. “I know it’s tough times, but our debt load is horrendous. The citizens of this town should not have to pay for the mistakes here.”
Mayor Amy Oehlers said the council and city staff had worked diligently to pare down the preliminary budget as much as possible, but the city has to start paying down some of the debt it has incurred over the years.
“The debt that comes is a schedule that we have that we really don’t have a lot of control over it,” she said. “It’s debt that we have to pay.”
She added, “There have been tremendous cuts in there and it is shown in these figures. We have changed the way we operate, saving our taxpayers a lot of money.”
Also during the meeting, the council set its Truth in Taxation meeting for Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. Residents can attend that meeting to comment on the proposed budget.
The preliminary levy and budget approved at the Monday meeting is the maximum amount the city could allow. It could be reduced before a final budget and levy need to be certified by the state at the end of December.
Asphalt plant, Safe Routes to School
Also during the meeting, the council decided to hear a request from North Branch land owner Phil Carlson about moving an asphalt plant owned by Valley Paving to County Road 30, north of 362nd Street – Carlson’s land – from its current location near I-35 and County Road 17.
The council unanimously agreed to review the proposal at its Oct. 22 regular meeting. The planning commission will hold a meeting to solicit public feedback about the proposal at its Oct. 15 meeting.
The council then unanimously approved the next step in the Safe Routes to School program, which would extend a walking trail from Hemingway and Hillshire Avenues to further cover the Castleberry Ponds development and eventually connect to the Wood Duck Ponds development.