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City holds budget hearing

By Staff | Oct 3, 2014

The Rugby City Council met for a public hearing on the proposed 2015 budget Monday at the Otter Tail Power Company conference room.

The budget received no serious opposition from about 30 citizens in attendance. The city is requesting 88.87 mills or about $545,826 to be raised through property taxes.

Total expenses from the general fund are expected to cost about $881,296. The budget for 2014 forecasted general fund expenses at about $757,904. The general fund provides for department expenses of city hall, police, law enforcement center, fire department, swimming pool, recreation and more.

Former city auditor Dawn Hauck and Pierce County tax director Kelsey Siegler answered questions on taxable values and mill levys.

Rugby resident Jon Nelson, a state representative, asked what the increase in taxable value is from 2013 to 2014. Mayor Arland Geiszler said the city saw an increase of about $82,000.

Finance committee chairman Jim Hoffert, a Ward 3 council member, said about $450,000 is projected to carry over from this year to use toward next year’s budget.

“We’ve transferred some general fund savings, taking money out of surplus to keep taxes as low as reasonable, but keep the bank account safe.”

Hoffert also informed the citizens that a Vanguard Appraisal of the city will begin next year. The city saved $50,000 in 2013 and 2014 toward the $200,000 cost of the appraisal. The appraisal is mandated by state legislature. Citizens are encouraged to allow appraisers to their property for a more accurate and favorable appraisal. Siegler said appraisers will have open meetings next year to answer questions.

A citizen asked if the city has a plan to fund the addition of natural gas services. Council members and other community leaders met with the state’s public service commission this summer about the possibility, according to Geiszler.

The mayor said federal permits have not been granted for a natural gas pipeline running roughly six to 10 miles north of the city. He said bringing natural gas from the line to Rugby city limits would cost about $1 million per mile.

“You’d see a huge bump in taxes,” Geiszler said. “Yes, we’re very interested and we’ll get more information from parties involved.”

Nelson said he anticipates partnerships between the state and communities seeking natural gas to lower costs.

Hoffert said improvements to the water plant will cost about $850,000 for the first phase, which calls for updating the filtration system. The city will receive about $250,000 from the state water commission’s Northwest Area Water Supply.

Public Works committee chair Terry Wentz, a Ward 4 council member, said the plant hasn’t received extensive upgrades in about 15 years. Bids for the first phase will be opened Tuesday. Wentz stressed the importance of the improvements for city residents and 500 rural water users.

Budget glance

Expenses for the police department are expected to increase from about $349,379 budgeted for 2014 to about $431,150. Increases in retirement contribute to the added expenses as does $20,000 for vehicles. $10,000 will go toward a car to be replaced next year and the other $10,000 for a car to be replaced in 2017.

Expenses for the swimming pool will jump from $500 budgeted for 2014 to $10,000 for 2015. The city set aside $5,000 for one heater and the $10,000 will cover two other heaters.

Highway and streets expenses are expected to increase from about $246,000 budgeted in 2014 to $308,000 largely due to equipment repairs and street improvements.

Fire department expenses are expected to drop about $10,000. Specialized equipment cost the department about $8,500 in 2014. No addtional money is expected for specialized equipment in 2015.

For more on the proposed budget, a copy can be requested at city hall.

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