City Council begins looking at budget, levy

Published 3:30 pm Wednesday, June 21, 2023

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Council also approves of the addition of two more officers for APD


The Austin City Council took its first steps Tuesday night in working toward the 2024 budget and tax levy.

Council members used the council’s work session following the regular meeting to begin expressing areas to concentrate on following an introduction by Austin Director of Administrative Services Tom Dankert, who asked members to think about five areas going forward.

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Those included:

  • Looking at the state of programs and determine what is working and what might not be working;
  • Current staffing;
  • Continuation of future comp and class studies;
  • The General Fund; and 
  • The tax levy.

Nothing was set in these early stages, but it was clear that the council was keen on keeping the levy to single percentage targets ranging from 3.5% up to 8%.

As for early priorities, council members listed areas that included housing, health insurance and a downtown master plan among others.

Another area council members thought was important was hearing from department heads their opinions on how money should be allocated during budget proceedings, though members also hoped to hear how money might be saved as well. 

Council member Jason Baskin hoped that during the process people would come forward with at least one “radical, bold idea of how we can reduce costs.”

“Let’s at least get the ideas on the table,” he added.

Among other things council members will have to consider is extra $910,000 coming in from Local Government Aid. Dankert said that the League of Minnesota Cities is estimating that Austin will now receive a total of just over $9.79 million in LGA funding this year.

The city will also receive a one-time payment of $1.159 million in public safety aid from the state that can go toward both Austin police and fire departments, however, city administration and council are still looking into exactly how that money can be spent.

The council has until Sept. 30 to set the levy and preliminary budget. After that, the levy can not be increased, but can be lowered and the budget can be altered just not with tax money.

The council is then required to hold a Truth and Taxation Meeting around the end of November, beginning of December. Everything has to be certified with the county and state by Dec. 28.

In other news:

  • During the regular meeting, the council authorized the addition of two patrol officers for the Austin Police Department, effective immediately with the positions to be included in the 2024 budget. That brings the number of budgeted officers to 36 total.
  • The council also approved a needs assessment to the amount of $5,500 for the Law Enforcement Center with funding to come from 2023 contingency funding.
  • It also approved a contract with the Austin Public Schools Board for police liaison officers.
  • A new three-year lease was approved that will keep the Austin Bruins at Riverside Arena. The Bruins were runners up this year for the Robertson Cup.