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First-look budget includes tax increase for Farmington

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news Farmington, 55024
Farmington Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

When Farmington city administrator David McKnight presented his first draft of the 2013 city budget with a tax levy increase of 11.29 percent, he knew it would not go over well.

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"I'm not crazy," McKnight told Farmington City Council members during a Monday night budget workshop, "but I wanted you to see some of the budget requests."

As presented, general fund needs are budgeted at $10,341,694, which is a 3.27 percent increase over 2012. The initial tax levy is $9,533,480. But those numbers will definitely change, McKnight said.

"I don't want to call this the first draft of the budget because it's that not real," he told council members.

One of the most significant increases in the general fund -- $221,639 -- comes in the area of human resources. Only two of the four union contracts are settled for the upcoming year, and there will be an increase to the budget once the remaining two are negotiated.

Approximately $120,000 of that HR increase comes from previously unbudgeted human resources costs that McKnight found while going through past budgets. That amount comes mostly from the payment of comp time, health care savings and other pay issues that are in the city's union contracts. In large part, instead of taking the comp time, employees are receiving overtime.

McKnight also decreased revenue expectations by more than $284,000 for the coming year. Of that, an expected decrease in the number of building permits accounts for a $90,000 decrease. Farmington School District 192 has also cut two school resource officers from its budget, which equates to a $94,148 decrease in revenues for the city.

The numbers McKnight introduced Monday are far from being the final budget that will be approved in the fall. Between now and then, city staff and council members will whittle down the list of requests and make cuts to the proposed budget.

Some of those cuts could come from the area of public safety. The fire department has asked for approximately $246,000 to be budgeted in the area of fire equipment and building repairs. Council member Christy Jo Fogarty questioned whether Farmington has too much equipment for the size of its department, and asked that a comparison with other departments be drawn up for a future meeting.

Fogarty also asked for a proposal that eliminates staff from the police department. While she said she is "about as pro-officer as they come," Fogarty noted the police department has not been subject to budget cuts the way other city departments have been in the past.

Council members plan to sit down with police chief Brian Lindquist and fire chief Tim Pietsch at a July workshop to start looking at ways both departments could be restructured.

McKnight plans to work on paring down the budget and levy over the next couple of months. His goal is to have council approve a two-year budget cycle by the time the preliminary levy is approved in September. And he wants that preliminary 2013 budget and levy number to be the same one that is approved in December. What he does not want, though, it to drag out the budget process.

"I think you got very educated, but I'm not going to go through 42 work sessions like you did last year," he told council.

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