Work Session 8-30-2011

The packet and agenda for Tuesday evening’s work session can be found on the City Council web page.

The City Council hold a brief Special Meeting to consider approving materials purchases for the Sherlock Forest Playground.  Quotations will be presented for items on which the City received a bid.  The resolution also grants approval to the City Administrator to purchase any remaining materials necessary to the complete the project.

The City Planner will request Council approval to formally accept the state grant award of the 2012 Safe Routes to School program. The state awarded the City’s application to construct a sidewalk on the west side of Bygland. I commend planning and engineering staff for building relationships and demonstrating competence in this program to the degree that the state has awarded the City its third straight Safe Routes to School application.

Item 2 on the work session considers a request to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to conduct a speed study of Bygland Road that would raise the speed limit to 35 miles per hour.  The City Council discussed the issue last year when the City requested – and eventually received – approval to raise the speed limit on River Road.  The Council may choose to proceed with the request now that most construction activity (with the exception of the aforementioned Safe Routes to School project) is completed on Bygland Road.

The Parks and Recreation Director will discussed the proposed arena lease with the school district for the 2011-2012 winter sports season.  There are no proposed changes to the agreement.  The School Board has accepted the agreement contingent on Council approval.

Finally, I will present the 2012 Preliminary Budget.  The Preliminary Budget is available on the City’s web site.  I am pleased to report that the 2012 Budget contains a slight surplus in the General Fund with a small decrease to the total property tax levy.  One should note, however, that some property owners will still see small tax increases due to the state changes to the MVHC program.  The Preliminary Budget and Levy is due to Polk County on or before September 15.  The Council may choose to increase the Preliminary Levy for flexibility as the Council discusses the budget in full this fall.  The Preliminary Levy, once approved, can be decreased; but it cannot be increased.

The Preliminary Budget contains utility fee increases for street lighting and storm water.  Neither fee has been increased in several years, and both accounts reported losses in 2010.  The Storm Water Fund especially has sustained great financial damage due to three successive years of flood events.  The flooding has caused a “double-whammy” of cash flow issues and increased maintenance costs.  The City must provide upfront funding for flood fights while FEMA reimbursements often lag for years.  Further, high waters also cause significant damage to lift stations, gates, and levee turf that must be repaired largely at City cost.

Overall, the 2012 Preliminary Budget focuses a great deal on infrastructure maintenance and equipment replacement that has been deferred for years and, in some cases, decades.  The entire City, from the Council to front-line staff, should be proud that proactive measures taken by the City in prior years have eased the adjustment period of our “new normal” economy while many of our peers are scrambling to identify revenue sources to replace lost state funding.