Council comes to agreement on 2018 not-to-exceed tax levy

The decision came after much debate about what the number should be. A preliminary budget provided to council had the levy increasing by 8.78 percent, which council member Alan Oberloh argued should be set as the no-to-exceed number.

“I don’t know why we would want to inflate it more than the number the department heads requested,” Oberloh said. “Everything they’ve requested will be covered at this number.”

Councilman Chad Cummings argued the number should be set higher — around 9 or 10 percent — to allow for potential projects, as council members can always lower it for the final budget if no additional specific needs for found.

“It’s a not-to-exceed levy,” Cummings said. “Why are we limiting ourselves to the smallest number?”

Council members eventually compromised, voting 4-1 to set the number at 9.5 percent, with Oberloh voting against.

Council will formally approve the pre-certification level for the 2018 tax levy during its Sept. 11 meeting.

During meetings on Monday and Friday, council members discussed specific budget items.

A hot topic on Monday was the 10th Avenue bridge that runs over Whisky Ditch. Council member Mike Harmon said he wanted the budget to include funds to replace the bridge, which would cost an estimated $500,000.

“We’ve been hiding from this bridge for 25 years,” Harmon said. “It’s been on the docket for so long.”

The project was not included in City Engineer Dwayne Haffield’s recommendations. Haffield said the city would pursue grants or other sources of funding for such a project.

Though council members agreed the bridge needed work, they didn’t agree on how to go about fixing it.

Council member Amy Ernst suggested the city put away money every year to replace the bridge. Haffield said $188,000 of maintenance spending could be transferred toward the project, but the council did not take action.

Harmon said Friday he would not support a budget that did not have money toward replacement of the bridge.

Council also scrutinized the Aquatic Center Fund. The budget puts away $11,500 every year toward eventual replacement of the swimming pool at the Worthington Area YMCA, as well as other maintenance. The pool likely won’t need to be replaced for another 30 to 40 years.

“Should taxpayers today pay for a pool that they won’t see in 30 or 40 years?” asked City Administrator Steve Robinson.

Mayor Mike Kuhle, along with Oberloh, said some of the fund’s extra money could be used to pay for a splash pad.

The council voted to send the item to the Community Growth Committee to investigate more than $329,000 worth of extra money put toward amenities, and put a cap on the fund at $500,000.

Accounting for a portion of next year’s budget, a handful of vehicles will be replaced in 2018. They include the detective’s 2014 Ford, police chief’s 2010 Chevrolet Impala, captain’s 2009 Saturn Aura, community service officer’s 2008 Ford Ranger and building inspector’s 2002 Ford Ranger.

Street paving and maintenance also make up nearly $7 million in projects scheduled in the 2018 budget.

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