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Woodbury City Council sets preliminary levy for 2014

Woodbury’s property tax levy increase for 2014 can go no higher than 2.76 percent.

That’s what City Council members decided Wednesday in setting the preliminary budget and levy.

Only Council Member Christopher Burns dissented in the 4-1 vote, citing concerns with staffing increases -- specifically the addition of two new police officers to the city budget.

Though noting he is supportive of the police department, Burns questioned the necessity of two more officers on the heels of three recent additions to the force.

He said he was in search of no more than a flat levy.

“I would have been fine with zero (percent increase),” Burns said after the meeting, “and I think there might have been a path to get there.”

Discussion on the levy and budget was scarce, with council and staff having spent a lengthy workshop in August sorting through the 2014 budget, which will add up to about $70 million.

During a presentation to the council, City Administrator Clint Gridley said 43 percent of the budget will come from property taxes, while the other major share -- user fees -- funds 27 percent.

The levy increase, Gridley noted, is the fourth-lowest the city has approved in the past 20 years.

This year’s budget saw a $308,000 reduction due to the elimination on sales tax for taxing authorities, like cities and counties. The change was among those approved this year by the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton.

During his presentation, Gridley touched on other budget highlights, which include:

-- The addition of about seven new full-time-equivalent positions

-- A 3 percent increase for EMS/ambulance fees that Gridley said was due to rising costs and reimbursement issues related to Medicaid and Medicare patients

-- The 2014 property tax rate puts Woodbury on the lower end of rate increases among Twin Cities communities and in the lower half among Washington County cities, as well

-- Woodbury debt service climbs by 87 percent in the budget, which Gridley said is largely due to bonds issued for the reconstruction of Bielenberg Sports Center, which he said is funded through an escrow fund balance

The council will review the budget again on Nov. 20 before holding a Truth in Taxation meeting on Dec. 11. Final levy and budget approval will follow.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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