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City of Willmar, Minn., says its revenues are flat

Dan Halvorson, an employee with the city of Willmar, manuevers a steam roller Thursday over a repaved patch of Sixth Street Southwest. City officials say revenues are likely to be flat next year. Every department is looking at how it delivers services -- everything from filling potholes to mowing lawns. City Administrator Charlene Stevens says she and department directors are looking at whether they can do without some things or do things differently. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- The city may change the level of services next year as officials begin the task of balancing 2013 budget expenditures and projected flat revenues.

"The projected revenues for the city are flat for 2013 and it requires that we have essentially flat expenditures or reduced expenditures,'' said City Administrator Charlene Stevens. "We still have some work to do to get the budget into balance for 2013.''

Stevens says revenues are driven by the economy and the city will not receive an in-crease in local government aid from the state, which is a large revenue source.

"If we keep the property tax flat, the increased valuation from new construction is actually offset by a decrease in some of the property values. We're projecting that our property tax revenue at the same levy would come in flat,'' Stevens said.

She said the city is not seeing any increases in interest earnings or things like that; thus, major revenue sources just are staying flat and some services may change.

"As we go through the budget process, we'll identify those and identify for the council what that looks like and what they look like for citizens. But it is premature right now to identify anything. We're in that process now. I can't say what those are today.''

Stevens said the council has not suggested at this point that they are looking at a property tax levy increase.

"If we keep our levy the same, we're showing that our revenues will be the same. I think there's a desire of the council to try to keep the levy the same,'' she said.

Some areas being discussed for possible expense reductions include professional service contracts and part-time and seasonal labor. Departments such as the engineering department contract for professional services for some projects, and seasonal and part-time employees mow lawns and do other work.

Stevens said she and department directors are looking at whether they can do without some things or do things differently.

At Stevens' request, the City Council and the council's Finance Committee have begun working on the budget several months earlier than in previous years to give the committee and council more opportunity to have questions answered in advance.

"The intent was to move up the schedule a little bit, allow department directors to come in and present their proposed budgets so that the Finance Committee and the City Council could see what the department directors proposed budgets were as well as the mayor's recommended budget,'' said Stevens.

In the past, the Finance Committee discussed department budgets after the mayor's budget had been presented.

Department directors are also working on a five-year capital improvement plan through 2017 that ranks infrastructure and other projects and needs in order of importance across the entire city. In the past, each department ranked its own projects.

"We're trying to develop more of a proactive, five-year capital improvement plan and develop that with funding priorities to it,'' said Stevens. "We're trying to do that organization-wide as a roadmap so we know what the needs are and how we're going to be able to fund those.''

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150