Delano aims to pay cash for road repair

The Delano City Council Wednesday, Sept. 5, approved a preliminary general fund budget for 2013 that reflects a future “pay as you go” fund for street repairs.

Delano Finance Director Brian Bloch proposed a preliminary budget containing a pot of $160,000 earmarked for a street maintenance fund that city staff is planning to set up. He said Delano has street projects planned for next year and three years later. With the proposed street fund, the city would have cash on hand to pay for these projects. This way Delano would avoid bonding fees and costs for feasibility studies and save money for the city in the long run.

City Councilor Dan Vick said he liked the pay as you go idea, and he also asked the City Council to cut the proposed preliminary property tax levy of $2,900,594 by $100,000.

Most of the property tax levy will go towards funding the general fund budget, which pays for city operating costs. The rest of levy will pay $347,000 in debt service costs and a $100,000 tax abatement for Delano Crossings. Bloch warned that a $100,000 cut in the property tax levy would result in a cut in the general fund budget.

Then, on a three to two vote, the City Council approved a 2013 preliminary property tax levy with the $100,000 reduction “off the top.” When the council approves the final 2013 general fund budget and property tax levy in December, the figures can be equal to or lower than the preliminary figures — not higher, according to state law.

Bloch’s original proposal for a $2,453,594 property tax levy in 2013 would have been a 12.65 percent ($330,000) increase over the final budget and property tax levy for 2012. The $100,000 cut lowers the levy increase to 8.76 percent.

Mayor Dale Graunke said, “This is a projected amount (like) we start with every year. If it we don’t set it high enough and it turns out we need some funding for something, we can’t go back and raise it. What we do is set that amount at what we think we’re going to be addressing because we have to have it in by certain dates.”

He added that city staff came up with the preliminary budget and tax levy and the City Council will look at the numbers until Dec. 18. “This is a work in progress,” he said.

City Councilor Betsy Stolfa commented, “I don’t think anybody sitting up here is comfortable with the $330,000 increase (in the property tax levy). I think we can be confident in saying that that’s not going to be the final number.”

She wanted the levy increase to be under 10 percent so that taxpayers don’t get a “wallop” in the mail and unfairly judge school funding. She added that Delano would have until December to decide where the $100,000 cuts in the general fund budget would come from.

City Councilor Holly Schrupp said she was not afraid of cutting the budget, but “I want to know where it’s coming from.”

In related action, the City Council set the date of a public meeting on the final budget and property tax levy for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4. The final certification of the levy was set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18.