Rockford decides on preliminary 3.85% preliminary levy increase

The Rockford City Council met Tuesday, Sept. 26 to workshop and approve a preliminary levy increase of 3.85% from what was levied last year.

The deadline to approve a preliminary levy and submit it to Wright County was Sept. 30.

Mayor Renee Hafften was not in attendance at the meeting; councilor Rick Martinson was acting mayor pro tem.

The preliminary levy amount that is approved and submitted can not be increased, and it is common practice for the actual amount to be lower at final approval in December.

“Cities tend to err on the side of being conservative with their budgets so they don’t wind up in a tough position at the end of the year,” said City Administrator Dan Madsen.

That said, the increase is due largely to debt service. Madsen said that the operating levy was nearly flat from last year and the city’s long-term bond debt was projected to increase in excess of $100,000. However, commercial sales like the Dollar General being built by the Rockford City Center Mall have worked to offset a little of the city’s debt.

Insurance costs in general also contribute to the increase. Madsen told the council that health insurance costs were expected to go up 30% alone, with general insurance costs increasing similarly.

“It’s city staff’s intent to continue to work to reduce that levy amount before it is finally approved in December,” said Madsen, including looking into other insurance carriers and plans.

The total preliminary levy is in the amount of $1,679,517. That number can be further broken down into an operating levy of $1,331,025, and a debt service levy of $348,492.

Councilor Rick Martinson again reminded council that this number is setting a worst case scenario: “In all likelihood it will be lower than that, but we have to come up with a number that makes the most sense and allows us to serve the needs of the city and everything that can possibly happen,” he said.

In other news, the council:

DIRECTED staff to make needed fixes to the property owned off of Highway 55 to either rent or sell in the future.

APPROVED the Delano Youth Hockey request for exclusive access to the rink Thursdays.

APPROVED the hire of Robert Paulsen as new Public Works mechanic. Seven applications were submitted to the City of Rockford.

HEARD the Minnesota Department of Health had approved public works’ wellhead protection plan.