The Red Wing City Council chambers filled with community members on Monday evening to provide input to the council about the 2023 budget.
As the end of the fiscal year nears close, the council is beginning to make some tough decisions regarding next year's budget.
The chairs in the chamber were almost completely full during the budget workshop with people from the community listening to discussions among the council about some of the goals for the 2023 budget.
Many residents took advantage of the opportunity to provide input and feedback to the council in regards to the budget.
“The U.S. economy, according to chair of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell, has some significant headwinds ahead of it yet, and I just would like to ask the council to keep these things in mind as we go through the budgeting process,” said resident Paul Kampe during the public comment section of the meeting.
During this budget workshop, the discussions revolved around the preliminary levy and special revenue funds. Each budget workshop that the City Council hosts focuses on different aspects of the budget.
Finance and Accounting Manager Sue Iverson presented information to the council about changes that staff had made since the previous discussions at budget workshops.
A reduction in debt levy by $147,063 and a reduction in capital levy by $1.45 million were made by staff after direction from the council following the previous meeting.
“If we kept the 2022 levy the same in the 2023 levy we would have a proposed levy increase of 12.21%. As we applied the reductions we talked about last time and used the available debt service funds and capital reserve funds our proposed levy goes down by a million dollars and brings it to 4.28%” Iverson said.
Staff made other changes regarding updating payroll and health insurance costs along with some other changes to bring the proposed levy to 3.85%.
At the budget workshop, staff was seeking further direction on the preliminary levy.
When setting a preliminary levy the council has to keep in mind that once that levy is set they cannot increase the levy when it comes time to approve a final levy for the 2023 budget.
However, they can decrease the levy over the course of four months between setting the preliminary levy and the final levy.
“We are required to provide a certified levy to the county auditor by Sept. 30… the final levy to be adopted in December cannot be higher than the preliminary levy that is certified now. So we have to take into account any risks that might happen over the next four months,” Iverson said.
The council came to a consensus for the preliminary levy to be set at 0% and that the preliminary levy must be set by Sept. 30. The final levy will be approved in December along with the final 2023 budget.
The council members had some meaningful discussions about their goal to have a 0% preliminary levy set for the upcoming budgeted year.
“The LGA is a revenue stream that we might not get. I think we should cover that with fund balance. That way if we get it we can pay it back. The increase in CIP that’s new, I think we eliminate that out of the budget this year, ” council member Dean Hove said.
“We are short $906,000 and this brings us up to $824,000. It does leave an $82,000 gap, but it gets us really close. For the $82,000 I’d like to send that back to staff and see if each department head can come up with 10 or 15 thousand out of their budget and by doing that we can get to a zero levy or less,” Hove continued.
The council discussed ways that they hope to get down to a 0% preliminary levy. They hope to leverage funding in other areas and the city staff will take a closer look at the budget to find any overlap or overestimates.
“I don’t necessarily disagree with Dean hitting that target. In general I would say that I would want to push it to staff and see what the best fits for those items are,” council member Evan Brown said.
Discussions about where funding can be pulled from and where other items may fit were had among the council all in an effort to get the increase to be 0%.
“I think it important to note that we have already gone from 12% increase down to almost 4% and these are some other big strokes to bring it down,” council President Becky Norton said.
“I’m in agreement. Dean, I think you presented some possibilities on ways to get there … those are three good things to put on the table but I also think it is a good idea to bring this to staff and see if there are other ways to get there,” she continued.
Staff is working on finding ways to consolidate and look for overestimates that are currently in the budget before finalizing in December.
“There is still a lot of revising to do in the budget so we can easily find areas in the budget where we might have a duplication or areas where we have overestimated or in some cases underestimated. We will take all the ideas you give us, and we’ll look at those and bring that back to you,” City Administrator Kay Kuhlman said.
During the public comment portion of the meeting many people from the community felt inclined to provide some insight and feedback to the council.
Some community members commented on the funding that is used for parks and recreation. Others commented on funding that is used for special events such as Juneteenth.
The next budget workshop is scheduled for Oct. 27, and the community is welcome to attend. The recording from the budget workshop is available on the city’s website with other information about the 2023 budget at red-wing.org/729/Budget.