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Preliminarily, Afton approves 13 percent tax increase

Preliminary levy can still be lowered in advance of final approval Dec. 15

By Amber Kispert-Smith

Afton City Council approved its preliminary 2016 budget and tax levy during its regular meeting on Sept. 15. 

The preliminary budget City Council discussed last week is set at $1.19 million for expenditures, which is a 6.6 percent increase compared to this year’s budget.

The preliminary 2016 levy is set at $1.9 million, which is an increase of 13.04 percent.

“The feedback that I keep getting over and over is that it’s about time we take care of the infrastructure,” Council Member Stan Ross said. “Thirteen percent sounds like a big number, but does $160 sound like a big number if we’re providing what the community is asking for?” 

Council Member Joe Richter cast the sole no vote, citing a desire for further discussion and detail. 

The key items affecting the 2016 budget are as follows:

  • Crack sealing and seal-coating expenditures have increased by $3,000, or 5.6 percent.
  • Road surface maintenance and pothole repair expenditures have increased by $16,000, or 53.3 percent.
  • Brush and tree trimming and mowing along roadways and culvert repair expenditures have increased by $14,000, or 56 percent.
  • Building inspection fees are up $5,250, or 23.1 percent, to reflect additional building and remodeling.
  • City administrator pay is increasing by $5,887, or 6.6 percent, due to the 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment and step adjustment.
  • Fire and ambulance service expenditures are up $12,940, or 5.9 percent, which reflects the Lower St. Croix Valley Fire Department’s $20,990, or 4.91 percent, increase in its charges to its contracted cities and a large cost share for Afton due to the cost allocation formula.
  • Police service expenditures are up $2,100, or 1.2 percent, based on the estimated cost increase from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
  • Building permit revenue is up $8,000, or 12.3 percent.

The key items requiring the 13 percent levy increase are: citywide high-speed Internet expansion; debt service related to downtown improvement projects; and general fund expenditures increases.

City Council will hold its Truth in Taxation hearing during its Dec. 15 meeting. 

The budget and levy can still be lowered in advance of the final approval. It cannot be increased. 

“I’m OK to approve this now, but we haven’t sharpened our pencils nearly enough,” Council Member Bill Palmquist said. “I don’t support it being this high when we finally approve it.” 

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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