Woodbury 2013 budget has fourth lowest tax levy, flat utility ratesThe preliminary levy, which will be set in September, will likely be a 3.2 percent increase over last year, or about $29 million, according to the budget.
By: Riham Feshir, Woodbury Bulletin
When Woodbury City Administrator Clint Gridley was getting ready to present the 2013 budget, he said the word “future” was on his mind.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it,” he quoted writer and management consultant Pete Drucker at the City Council annual budget workshop Wednesday.
Although there are a number of things the city can’t control in the $61.92 million budget, Gridley said it holds a bright future.
The preliminary levy, which will be set in September, will likely be a 3.2 percent increase over last year, or about $29 million, according to the budget.
That means a $0 increase on the average home in Woodbury, compared with $1 increase last year.
The levy is “significantly below” the city’s 20-year historic average of 10.6 percent, according to the budget, and is the fourth lowest in the last two decades.
Utility rates are set to stay flat, as are a few department budgets within the overall budget.
Gridley said Woodbury’s tax rate is lower than other comparable cities in the metro area at 35.9 percent.
“From a tax rate perspective, we’re in a really good position,” he said, adding that the number doesn’t include municipal liquor store revenues like in Lakeville, or utility rate increases proposed in Minnetonka.
When it comes to growth and housing market recovery, Gridley said the city has seen some positive numbers in the first half of 2012. Sheriff’s sales are so far at 111, compared with 231 last year.
Building permits are at 122 in the first half 2012, compared with 286 in 2011.
“We are seeing continued building permits being taken out, continued growth,” Gridley said.
However, property values are still declining due to continuing drop in residential market sale prices, the budget document stated.
Woodbury resident Kingsley Forness advised the council not to be afraid of a little bump in the levy in order to keep up with maintenance and growth.
“I have this feeling that we’re starting to skimp a little bit and fall behind on our maintenance,” he said. “We’ve got some wealth in this community and I’d just like to see it stay that way.”
The second resident who spoke at the meeting, Bob Nelson, suggested a referendum for the Bielenberg Sports Center estimated $21 million expansion project coming up in 2013.
He said the city shouldn’t use short-term borrowing for a long-term project like the sports center and that a continuation of the initial borrowing method to build it would be better suited for that type of amenity.
“If you’re going to use taxpayer dollars, use it the most efficient way possible,” he said.
Gridley said the tax abatement bonds likely to be used for the expansion were suggested to avoid a tax increase on homeowners that would otherwise be needed to support the project.
But Nelson doesn’t agree that should be the way to go.
“I don’t think you should do a $21 million project without a referendum,” he said.
The budget discussion included a summary of each department’s expenses coming up in the next year. The highlights included the following:
-Redesign of the city newsletter
-Implementing a new system to accept credit card payments for utilities
-Wi-Fi upgrades at City Hall, Central Park and the Public Safety building
-Two additional police officers to be cross-trained as firefighters
-Replacement of the county’s record management system in the Public Safety Department
-New squad car, police equipped minivan and critical response equipment
-Firefighter training for the newly hired paid on-call firefighters
-Replacement of pumper truck
-New ambulance and cardiac replacement monitor
-New warning sirens to be added on Dale Road between Radio Drive and Mile Drive
-Landscaping for Woodbury and Radio drives to be added while the roads are under construction
-Purchase of an additional street sweeper
Woodbury City Council will adopt the preliminary budget in September. The final 2013 budget will be approved at the Truth-in-Taxation hearing in December.