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City is nearing deadline for setting a budget

Tick tock, tick tock.

The clock is ticking for the Farmington City Council. With one more budget workshop scheduled for Monday, council members have just a few more days to make final decisions for the 2011 city budget and levy.

Council members have wrestled with decisions on how much to cut, and what types of programs or positions should be trimmed from the 2011 budget. Come Monday, they will most likely make those decisions final.

But what do three or four months of budget workshops, new options and countless questions mean to the taxpayers of Farmington? It could be just a few dollars a year.

The original budget document, which was presented to council members for consideration in August, included a proposed levy of $9.640 million. On a $200,000 home, the median value in Farmington -- that would have meant an increase of approximately $6.31 per month on the city's portion of property taxes, about $76 over the course of a year.

"In that amount, there was no increase to operations," city finance director Teresa Walters said. "We were basically told to keep your budget the same."

But council members didn't like those numbers. They sent staff back to find another $400,000 in budget cuts, which staff did. In September, the council approved a $9.258 million levy. Once the city council approves a preliminary levy, they can lower the amount, but they cannot raise it.

As approved, the preliminary levy will still add approximately $2.23 per month to the city's portion of property taxes for a $200,000 home. If that amount is approved as the final levy for 2011, that would mean an increase of approximately $27 on property taxes for the median value home in Farmington.

Final changes

But the details of the budget are still not ironed out. In a budget workshop last week, council members directed staff to adjust some of the estimated revenue numbers downward, and added some programs that staff had suggested be cut back in to the budget.

Those adjustments mean finding additional cuts, which has been one of the issues Walters has been working on since the last workshop. Council members also asked to see an additional $25,000 in cuts to the budget.

That all means Walters is trying to make about $98,000 in budget adjustments before Monday's workshop.

The additional $25,000 in cuts would benefit residents, but not by much. On a $200,000 home, that would mean a decrease of an additional 25 cents each month, or $3 annually.

Walters will have her final recommendations ready for council approval on Monday. The city council is required by law to have the 2011 levy and budget set by Dec. 15, or face a penalty. Council members could try to tweak the budget more, but not by much.

"They could carry it out for another week, but then that leaves me a very limited amount of time to put that together," Walters said.

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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