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Farmington city council starts work on 2014 levy

And now, the real work starts.

The Farmington City Council took a first look at a proposed 2014 budget during a Monday workshop. While the budget presented addresses many needs that have gone unmet for years, it also exceeds a newly-mandated 3 percent limit on levy increases.

The budget presented Monday is far from final. It represents some of the spending goals council members have noted over the past year. As presented by city administrator David McKnight, the 2014 draft budget total is $11,116,964. That's an increase of $548,311, or 5.19 percent, over the 2013 budget.

McKnight's draft levy totals $9,069,023, which is $503,041, or 5.87 percent, over the 2013 levy.

Council members saw a first-time list of expenditure requests, as well. The requests come from budgets within the general fund.

One of the largest requests comes from the Farmington Fire Department, an increase of $311,000 over 2013. Of that amount, $125,000 is earmarked for new vehicles, and another $45,000 for machinery equipment. A $61,000 expenditure for building repairs is also included.

The police department's budget accounts for $187,000 of the expenditure requests. That amount includes workers compensation and overtime costs being added into the budget, and a request for $11,000 to cover the cost of supplies for squad cars.

The city council is also considering a new capital improvement plan to address equipment and road construction needs. Part of that CIP includes a proposed addition of $125,000, which will help to build up a fund to meet long-term needs.

The city will receive some Local Government Aid funding. Farmington did not receive any LGA funds in 2013, but state lawmakers revised the formula used to determine allocations, effective for 2014. Under the new formula, Farmington is scheduled to receive $245,592. McKnight suggested using the funding as a one-time allocation, and assigned the funds to cover several of the expenditure requests.

A good chunk of the LGA money is earmarked for fire department needs, including money for a new chief's vehicle and brush truck. Another $10,000 is set aside for upgrades to the exercise equipment in the police department.

McKnight noted a projected increase in revenues in the area of building permits and licenses. The city uses conservative estimates when it comes to building permits for housing construction, he said, but the budget reflects an increase in building permit revenues for 2014.

The city stands to receive additional funding through the state's fiscal disparities program, but that amount will not be available until later this summer.

Still, the net tax levy increase of 5.87 percent is nearly double of the new 3 percent levy limit imposed by state lawmakers during the last legislative session. Council member Doug Bonar suggested staff work up a budget scenario that includes a 1, 2 and 3 percent levy increase so the council can consider their options, based upon the city's needs.

But council member Christy Jo Fogarty and mayor Todd Larson both agreed that a 3 percent levy increase is probably due.

"Pretty much everything else (in the budget) is things we've been talking about for the past five years I've been sitting in this chair," Larson said. "I don't want to see a tax increase, but I do want to see a healthy Farmington, and to be a healthy Farmington, I think we're going to have to have a tax increase."

McKnight will work up alternate budgets using what he called the "3-2-1 scenario" suggested by Bonar. Council will have another workshop, specifically to discuss fire department needs, in July. The 2014 preliminary levy and budget will be approved in September.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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