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Street construction may result in local tax levy increase

Woodbury taxpayers could see a slight levy increase, by way of street improvement costs.

Woodbury City Council discussed the preliminary 2012 budget at last Wednesday's workshop where staff presented different scenarios detailing a percentage increase in the street reconstruction fund.

A 2 percent increase, or $563,000, is the recommended amount for street maintenance and rehabilitation projects, according to city administrator Clint Gridley.

But he added that the general fund, along with capital, debt and HRA funds would not produce a levy increase.

A council letter cited an estimated 2.4 percent decline in 2011 property values, residents' satisfaction with the value of city services for the taxes they pay, and the foreclosure, joblessness and slowed economic growth as reasons behind the decision not to increase the total levy.

Gridley said the current bidding environment and economic conditions, though, make for a unique opportunity to finish up a number of street reconstruction projects in the near future.

Engineering and Public Works Director David Jessup said the Pavement Condition Index (PCI) -- which measures street quality from 0 to 100 -- may drop significantly from the average number of 70 if the levy doesn't increase.

"That 2 percent levy increase would generate enough general revenue to increase the base funding for the street major maintenance program to be consistent with the special task force that did an analysis for the system back in the 2004 era," he said.

He also stated four different scenarios explaining how much funding would be needed in addition to the current base amount of $1.8 million over the next 30 years to keep up with inflation and overall cost increases.

The lowest increase of 5 percent annually would drop the PCI rating to 40, while the highest of 8.5 percent would put street conditions at well above the average rating.

Though none of those numbers are ideal at this point, Jessup said it was a sensitivity analysis to help the council in the long-term planning process.

Council member Amy Scoggins said she wishes the council could still implement a 0 percent increase as they did in the past, but "streets are something you can't ignore."

"The money has got to come from somewhere," she added.

Council member Paul Rebholz continued to encourage staff to bundle up on projects during the historically low bidding environment.

The engineering and street maintenance staff took advantage of low bids this year by fixing up $5 million worth of streets and upgrading the public safety building.

In other business:

• The council heard a presentation by members of the Community Development Department, which outlined a two-year organization study.

The department consists of three divisions: environmental, inspection services and planning, housing and economic development. Each department presented its roles to the council, which have not changed much, but grew over the years as the city grew.

• Matt Stemwedel, assistant to the city administrator, presented the annual Performance Report and Critical Success Factors Report. The reports evaluate the city's performance and aids the decision making process when it's time to vote on various programs and services.

• Stemwedel also announced the city of Woodbury was recognized for public reporting by the ICMA, the International City/County Management Association.

The 2011 Certificate of Excellence is the highest level out of three. Cities must meet a number of criteria to get the recognition, Stemwedel said.

"This was the first year we met all those criteria and received the highest level award," he added.

The city's increased effort to release public information, including the Performance Report, is why it received the recognition, he said.

City officials will receive the award and a plaque at a conference in Milwaukee this September.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.