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City budget gets early support

Woodbury City Administrator Clint Gridley discusses the 2010 budget proposal at a Wednesday budget workshop while Finance Director Tim Johnson looks on.

The city of Woodbury may make few major changes to its budget next year as it looks to ride out an economic storm and an unprecedented drop in property values.

City council members on Wednesday offered early support for a 2010 budget proposal that holds the city's operating fund essentially flat and includes a 2.5 percent levy increase.

"I'm not hearing anybody say we're going to go higher," council member Paul Rebholz said of the levy.

The proposed levy increase would yield $680,508 more tax revenue in 2010 than is being collected this year. The levy would generate a total of $19.6 million for general city operations.

Taxpayers with an average value home -- $283,100 - would not see a city property tax increase under the proposal.

That proposed levy hike would provide the city with about the same amount of revenue that it missed out on when Gov. Tim Pawlenty unilaterally cut state tax aid to cities as part of his state budget-balancing actions earlier this summer.

The loss in state aid is just one area of declining city revenue. Residential property values have fallen, affecting tax collections, and building permit fees have dropped.

"Despite the fact that there are some pretty strong negatives, we are holding our own," City Administrator Clint Gridley told council members at a budget workshop.

Public safety spending is a highlight of the budget plan.

The city would add four new police officers - positions that have been put on hold in recent years - and the equivalent of 1.5 full-time community service officers.

"We just felt that that was a priority and we were able to fund that," Gridley said.

The budget proposes a salary freeze for all city employees.

The council on Sept. 9 will formally adopt a proposed levy and set the date for a truth-in-taxation meeting, likely to be held in early December.

Mayor Bill Hargis did not attend the budget workshop because he traveled to Iowa for a family emergency, city staff said.

See the Aug. 26 edition for more information about how the 2010 budget proposal will affect taxpayers and city services.