The arrival of December is synonymous with Christmas cards, cookies and carolers, and on a similar note, it’s also that time of year when local governments approve levies and budgets for the upcoming year.
The Waconia City Council and the Waconia School Board did just that during separate meetings held on Monday, Dec. 10.
City of Waconia
After holding numerous work sessions over the past several months and a Public Informational Meeting (formerly called the Truth-in-Taxation meeting) on Monday, Dec. 3, the city council approved the city’s 2013 levy and final budget on Dec. 10.
Overall, the 2013 levy is $5,045,444, which represents a 3 percent increase from the $4,922,461 levy amount in 2012. In an example offered by the city, the average valued home in Waconia is $209,482 (down from $230,200 in 2012) and the levy equates to an approximately 1.39 percent tax increase (about $14) on that home in 2013.
Finance Director Nicole Lueck explained that one reason for the increase in the levy is because there was a 7 percent decrease in the city’s total net tax capacity, which is related to a decrease in market value for properties in the city.
According to City Administrator Susan Arntz, the largest increase in 2013 expenses for the city is related to deferred capital equipment purchases and improvements. In 2013, the city will be replacing several vehicles and other pieces of equipment and is planning improvements such as upgraded park amenities (new benches, picnic tables, garbage cans, etc.), trails, and new playground equipment for Sugarbush Park.
Thanks to work completed by the city council and city staff during a work session following the Public Informational Meeting last week, the final levy was reduced by $210,000 from what was proposed with the preliminary levy. This means that citizens should see a reduction on their city taxes compared to what was shown on the preliminary tax statement mailed by Carver County a couple of weeks ago.
The levy was approved by a 4-1 vote with Councilor Larry Millender voting against it. Millender explained his vote by saying that he wished the levy had featured a zero percent increase instead of the 1.39 percent increase.
In terms of the budget, which was approved unanimously, highlights include a 2 percent increase in the monthly rates for water, sewer and street lights and a 3 percent in the monthly storm water charge. These increases are mainly to offset the cost of capital improvements and compliance with state and federal regulations.
Safari Island rates are also seeing a moderate increase. The increase will be used to offset operational costs at the facility. One increase example is that membership rates will be increasing $10 to $25 depending on the membership type.
As explained during the meeting, the city has conducted comparison studies with other metro facilities to ensure that the services and amenities offered at Safari Island are comparable, and city officials believe that Safari Island is competitive with those facilities.
Any rate increases become effective on Jan. 1, 2013.
The 2013 budget also includes a 1 percent increase in wages for all employees. Full-time employees will be allowed to make a step movement, if eligible, for the first time since 2008. The city is also making a $300 increase in the annual contribution made on behalf of eligible full-time employees to city benefit programs.
The city has also created a permanent part-time class of positions, which are 32 hour a week positions that are eligible for 75 percent of the city contribution towards benefits. For these employees, PTO is earned on a pro-rated basis.
The entire 2013 budget with all line item details is available on the city website (www.waconia.org) and a copy is available in the front lobby at city hall.
The board unanimously approved the 2013 levy after Todd Swanson, Director of Finance and Operations, gave a presentation that served as the district’s Truth-in-Taxation hearing for taxes payable in 2013. No one from the public attended the hearing.
The 2013 levy is $10,627,952, which is an increase of approximately 5 percent (about $515,000) compared to the $10,112,741 levy in 2012.
Swanson noted there were several reasons for the increase in the levy. The largest chunk of the increase (about $217,000) is related to scheduled debt service payments (bond payments for school facilities, etc.). A second reason for the increase in the levy is related to the fluctuation of property values throughout the district.
Another $190,000 of the increase is related to costs associated with serving the district’s ever-increasing number of students. The district budgeted for 3,515 students and had 3,562 students as of Dec. 3, 2012. Total enrollment was 3,303 on Oct. 1, 2010, meaning the district has added 259 students in just over two years.
For more information on the school portion of their taxes, citizens should consult the preliminary tax statement that was sent by Carver County. To learn more about the district’s 2013 budget, contact Swanson at the district office at (952) 442-0600 or visit the district website at www.waconia.k12.mn.us.