LAKE CITY — The City Council approved its preliminary 2021 budget and levy Monday night.
After looking at several budget options at the August meeting, the council had asked staff to find a way to reduce the budget and levy from a 5.5% levy increase to a 3.5% levy increase. In the end, staff was able to recommend $71,500 in budget reduction that allowed for just a 3.5% levy increase, which was approved at Monday's meeting.
The preliminary property tax levy for 2021 from the city was set at $3,712,327. A final budget and levy, which cannot be adjusted up but can be adjusted down, will be approved in December.
While the council unanimously approved the preliminary budget for 2021, Council member Amy Alkire voted against the preliminary levy. Alkire said she was concerned the state budget deficit in St. Paul might tempt legislators to reduce the amount of local government aid given to cities. The state has promised $942,578 in LGA for Lake City, but some lawmakers are concerned cities could see cuts.
“But right now at this time we’re going to move forward with limiting ourselves," she said. "I think in both of these resolutions we could allow ourselves more wiggle room."
In other business, the council approved a purchase agreement to buy a trailer from David and Vera Falk on Marina Point for $20,000.
Several council members expressed concern about the deal. Council member Cindy McGrath said the city would lose money on the deal since the trailer, which dates back to the 1960s, has little or no resale value and, if the trailer is not structurally sound, it cannot be moved to a new location for a buyer.
But city staff members pointed out that the sale would save the city roughly $5,000 in reconfiguring and the layout on Marina Point and running utilities to another trailer. Plus, the city would save $6,500 in moving fees on the trailer.
City Administrator Rob Keehn said the purchase of the trailer was being done not to make money, but to reconfigure the layout to allow for new amenities at Ohuta Park.
In the end, the council approved the sale, 4-3.
The council also approved a new working budget for the Ohuta Park project. The initial estimates were $4.7 million, but once design and bids for parts of the project – Ohuta beach improvements ($3.45 million), design contract, ($270,000), bathroom construction, ($250,000) and architectural services, ($10,000-15,000) – became more clear, the price did as well. The new working budget was set at $4.025 million.
After a lengthy discussion, the council approved a citizens committee to look into advising and potentially fundraising to help supply banners to the new lighting features through downtown along U.S. Highway 61.
The new light poles will have mounting brackets for banners. Mayor Mark Nichols said the Chamber of Commerce, Destination Lake City and about a dozen private citizens have expressed an interest in forming a committee to look into the design and purchase of banners for the light poles.