Redwood Falls city council sets preliminary levy with 5% increase

Troy Krause
Redwood Falls Gazette

By the end of September, local units of government are required to approve a preliminary levy for the following year. While that levy is not finalized until later in the year, those units of government must submit the initial plan to the state by Sept. 30.

The Redwood Falls city council saw its 2021 preliminary levy proposal at its Sept. 15 meeting, which was presented by Melissa Meyer, city director of finance and administrative services.

Meyer presented a proposal that will include a 5 percent increase in the levy for the coming year, which reflects an increase of $142,000 over the 2020 levy.

The total preliminary levy approved by the city council is $2,970,978, which includes $909,862 for the general fund, $395,183 for the library fund and $55,276 for the port authority.

It also includes $48,176 for 1999 community center general obligation bonds, $4,205 for Garnette Gardens tax abatements, $31,547 for the Redwood Valley Fourth Addition tax abatement, $33,000 for the Ponderosa Business Park Lots 1 and 2, $68,922 for the PERA employer contribution rate and $1,424,807 for police wages and benefits.

Meyer indicated that a significant amount of the levy increase is in compensation, as the total compensation increase over 2020 is $103,000 – a 3.64 percent increase. A majority of that amount – $76,000 – is to cover a 20 percent increase in health insurance.

Meyer told the council that the city’s broker is currently negotiating with the health insurance carrier to try and lower that amount. The increase is shared by the city and each employee, with the city covering 80 percent of the overall increase.

The levy also includes a $58,000 increase in the general fund seal coating allocation. Meyer said the city is on a five-year seal coating schedule, and this year just happens to be one when all of that work will be done on streets in the city.

According to Meyer, the city is going to see an increase of $50,000 in its state allocation as part of the local government aid (LGA) program. 

The council also adopted the 2021 preliminary budget, which includes an anticipated $22,007,482 in revenues and $28,004,248 in expenses.

Meyer expressed her appreciation to the staff for its efforts in working through the levy and the budget.

Matt Smith, city council member who sits on the budget committee, also thanked the staff, including Meyer, for the effort to keep taxes as low as possible, adding things could have been a lot worse.

In the coming months, the city staff will continue to work on the levy and budget. The final levy and budget will be discussed during a meeting Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. at city hall in the council chambers.

The final levy that is approved can be altered with the option to lower the amount being levied. How-ever, the levy for the coming year can’t be higher than the approved preliminary levy.

In other action during its meeting, the city council:

• Proclaimed the week of Sept. 14-18 as Girl Scouts is a Force for Good Week.

• Proclaimed Oct. 15 as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

• Approved the 2021 fee schedule. Among the changes are some changes for the parks and recreation program to include a $2 increase in the per night rate for campground sites.

• Approved the farmland rental bids for land owned by the city. Bids, which were opened Sept. 10, were solicited for a 73.95 acre parcel around the airport and a 78.71 acre parcel known as the Gilwood Haven 80. The airport bid was awarded to Wade Gronau of Redwood Falls with a total annual payment of $7,265 and the Gilwood Haven parcel was awarded to Dale and Jason Mathiowetz of Wabasso with an annual payment of $18,890. The bids are for the 2021-23 cropping years.

• Approved the employment of Connie Lechner as the new director for the Redwood Falls Public Library effective in October.