The Watertown City Council last week approved the city’s $1.42 million preliminary 2014 general fund levy.
The $1,423,762 general fund levy represents an increase of 17.4 percent from the final levy that was adopted by the city council last December. However, the preliminary levy is simply a cap on what the 2014 levy can be, and the final levy is typically much lower.
In actuality, the city council has not even begun its budget talks yet, but a preliminary levy must by set by Sept. 15 according to state law. The city of Watertown has typically set a high preliminary levy and made cuts as it begins budget discussions. The final levy can be lower than the preliminary levy, but not higher.
In all, this year’s preliminary levy is $2.02 million, which includes the $593,438 debt service levy. This year’s $1.42 million preliminary general fund levy is 3.2 percent higher than last year’s preliminary general fund levy of $1.38 million, and the $2.02 million total preliminary levy is only 0.5 percent higher than last year’s $2.01 million total preliminary levy. That’s because this year’s debt service levy is actually 5.4 percent less than last year.
Last year’s final levy was $1.8 million, significantly lower than the $2.01 million preliminary levy. The city council expects to make similar cuts during its budgeting process this year.
“We’d expect that our final levy would be reduced by a comparable percentage during our budget process,” Watertown City Administrator Luke Fischer said.
The council already has budget workshops planned for Tuesday, Sept. 17, and Tuesday, Oct. 1, both at 5:30 p.m., and subsequent budget workshops will likely be scheduled at a later date. The city is scheduled to have a public hearing on its 2014 final budget and levy at the Dec. 10 city council meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m.
As a separate item, the city council also passed the preliminary Economic Development Authority levy at $41,386. That levy is based solely on the city’s total market value, and is $580 higher this year than last year.
“It’s not much of an increase, but it does show that our market values are stabilizing and even increasing just slightly,” Fischer said.
In other business:
• The city council approved several requests from Hecksel Machine in order to allow for outdoor storage on the property at 204 Newton Ave NE. HMI is planning to utilize the vacant property adjacent to its machine shop for outdoor storage. The company acquired the site several years ago with the intent of expanding onto the site. HMI now plans to store materials produced in its machine shop on the site prior to being shipped or picked up. Outdoor storage is allowed in properties zoned light industrial as a conditional use, which the city council granted.
• The city council ordered final improvements associated with the street portion of the Lewis Avenue downtown redevelopment project. While the street has been open for several years, the city was planning to wait to put finishing touches on the project until after construction of the senior home planned for the site commenced, so as not to damage the roads during that process.
However, construction has yet to commence, the city has had little correspondence with the developer, and the city is unaware of when construction might begin. It doesn’t appear that construction will begin this year.
Contact Matt Bunke at email@example.com