At a budget workshop, the Brainerd City Council was presented with the proposed adjustments to balance next year’s budget.
It’s the second budget workshop officials have held; the first was late last month.
City Administrator Theresa Goble said the deficit was “a workshop number” so that council could have input on what goes into the budget.
For the proposed 2014 budget, the current estimated revenues are $327,565 less than 2013, which is mostly because a dip in Brainerd Public Utilities (a result in Wausau Paper closing), the loss of the fire department SAFER grant and no FEMA grant revenue.
Requested expenditures are 4.3 percent more, or $371,312, than 2013. That increase is due to many reasons, city staff say, including: an increase in budgeted capital items, a 10 percent increase in health insurance premiums and fees with health care reform, and the election year.
Between the decreased revenue and increased expenditures, there is a deficit of $698,877 in the working funds.
To balance that deficit, city officials Monday night presented several proposed adjusted items, including: using the increased local government aid in working funds, including no capital items in the budget, lowering requested special projects amount, lowering the fire department overtime request by half, no new street and sewer employee (there are no new staff next year), and no increase in airport appropriation.
In September, the city of Brainerd voted to increase its levy by $500,000. That’s a 12.7 percent increase over the 2013 levy.
For a resident who has an $125,000 valued property, that would mean an additional estimated $70 for city taxes in 2014.
The final levy and budget will be adopted in December, at which time the levy can be lowered but it cannot be raised above the recently voted amount.
The proposed 2014 levy is $4,453,486. Of that, $1.9 million is for debt.
Of the $500,000 increase, $400,000 is for debt service, with half going to maintain deficit levels and half for equipment certificates. The remaining $100,000 increase is for the general fund levy, which is to make progress toward the goal of reaching the minimum fund balance policy.
City councilwoman Mary Koep said officials should look at ways to reduce the levy.
“I would rather see the money go to the taxpayer with the city tightening its belt,” she said.
Koep suggested decreasing small amounts of money from several areas.
“Our whole effort and goal, (should be) if we can knock off $100 here and $1,000, we should,” Koep said.
Mayor James Wallin said the city can’t keep putting off upgrades and repairs.
“To me, the people really want us as a city to provide them with the services they want,” he said.
To do that, Wallin said, the city needs a “workable budget.”
Koep shot back, calling it a “disgrace” to go to the taxpayers and ask them for an increase.
There will be a public hearing on the budget Dec. 9.