Council directs more than $750K in cuts to budgetIt’s no secret that the economy is experiencing a downturn — and Woodbury isn’t immune.
By: Hank Long, Woodbury Bulletin
It’s no secret that the economy is experiencing a downturn — and Woodbury isn’t immune.
That’s the gist of the message sent to taxpayers by the Woodbury City Council last week when it gave direction to city staff to make three-quarters of a million dollars in cuts to the 2009 budget.
The directive came at the conclusion of an Oct. 15 budget workshop, one month after the council passed a preliminary budget and property tax levy in September that would have increased the property tax rate by 5.4 percent in 2009.
Based on the council’s most recent recommendation to make $757,489 in cuts to the preliminary budget, the property tax rate will instead increase by 2.8 percent. The property tax increase on the average valued home in Woodbury will be $18.
Before the suggested cuts, the average value home in Woodbury could have expected a $47 increase in its 2009 property tax statement, said city administrator Clint Gridley. He added that the cuts are related to the council’s consensus opinion that the budget needs to reflect the tough economic times.
“The council sent a strong message that it recognizes the present economic situation and that cities do not need levy limits imposed by the state in order to be fiscally responsible to the taxpayers,” Gridley said.
“Woodbury’s elected and appointed officials are committed to doing what is right and necessary for the long-term good of the citizenry. Every effort will be made to continue the excellent services of the city of Woodbury while providing some relief to taxpayers during these tighter financial times.”
Safety personnel to maintenance
The council-recommended items to be cut include elimination of $190,000 public works request for an increase for street maintenance, $92,000 reduction in fuel costs and a reduction in the Woodbury Public Safety Department’s request of four new police officers to two.
Mayor Bill Hargis said the reduction in the public safety request was not made without first consulting public safety department heads.
“We didn’t come to that conclusion without first talking to (public safety director) Lee Vague and (deputy director) Todd Johnson,” Hargis said. “We’re not compromising the existing level of service, and we’re still committed to the goal of filling these positions in the future.”
The reduction in the public safety request amounts to an overall 5.31 net decrease in fulltime positions on the city’s payroll.
The city will add three long-term seasonal park workers to its budget due to the expansion at Bielenberg Sports Center, but it will not fill 3.5 positions left vacant in the inspections department and two positions left vacant in engineering.
The council also chose not to seek a cost-of-living increase in its wage for the second year in a row, a gesture that Hargis said was more symbolic than anything.
“We’re doing our part to mitigate the impact of what is going on in the economy,” Hargis said.
“This is the toughest economic time I’ve seen I became mayor in (1993). And we know this is going to last for a couple more years before it turns around, so the message we want to give is that we’re trying to be conservative with taxpayer money.”
Another added challenge the city faced this year during its budget process was the implementation of state mandated levy limits.
The city was able to keep its levy under the 3.1-percent limit, but Gridley said the timing of the state Legislature’s approval of the levy limit didn’t allow the council to hold its budget workshop until after it approved its preliminary budget and property tax levy.
“Traditionally we’ve actually run our process a little bit earlier than most cities, but the levy limits were approved in the last hours of the legislative session and were very complicated,” Gridley said.
Hargis said the upcoming November truth-in-taxation hearing allows time for the city to make additional, if only slight, adjustments to the budget before its final adoption in December.