Council sets preliminary 2015 budget, tax levy

Published 10:02 am Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Members maintain 4.98 percent tax levy increase

The Austin City Council set a preliminary 2015 city budget and an almost 5 percent city tax levy increase Monday night.

Council members set the city’s tax levy to $4,325,000 in 2015, which is about 4.98 percent higher than this year’s levy, to add 1.5 jobs, cover increasing costs and maintain services. The council also set the city’s budget at $31.2 million for next year.

While the city can still add to the budget, the council can only maintain or decrease the tax levy between now and December, when the council finalizes the city’s budget and 2015 city tax levy.

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City officials are looking to increase the city budget by $205,000 to help pay for a new full-time librarian and to move a part-time building inspector position up to full time.

The city of Austin has cut staff from about 180 positions in the 1980s to about 139 positions this year, about two positions annually over the past 25 or so years. Yet recent retirements and other vacancies have forced city staff to look at Austin’s operations.

Librarian Gayle Heimer recently announced her retirement, which goes into effect in April 2015. Austin Public Library Executive Director Ann Hokanson told the council in June that she would have to hire two full-time librarians to replace Heimer, who did multiple jobs for the library.

Other changes to next year’s budget include $1,000 more for the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, a lobbying group that represents outstate cities at the Capitol. The city expects to pay $52,000 next year to the coalition.

The Welcome Center in Austin will receive $7,500 in funding next year, up from $5,000, after Welcome Center Executive Director Jake Vela asked for a grant increase due to a rising need for services in the community. The extra funds will come out of the city’s contingency fund.

The council set its annual Truth in Taxation hearing on Dec. 2.