NEW LONDON -- Police coverage in New London is being cut nearly in half next year in order to save money.
As part of the 2012 budget approved Wednesday, the New London City Council approved a reduced contract for police protection from the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office.
The city's current contract is for 20 hours a week during the summer months of May through September and 15 hours a week for the winter months.
Cutting the service to 10 hours a week all year in 2012 will result in annual savings of $12,495, according to City Administrator Trudie Guptill.
The decision to reduce the hours in the contract was "totally financial," said Guptill, adding that the council expressed no real concerns about reducing the hours of police protection but said hours could be increased if troubles arise.
The council is making other budget reductions next year, including reducing the hours it contracts for the building inspector it shares with the city of Spicer.
The two communities are also sharing the cost of a tripod and harness used when maintenance workers are lowered into a manhole. Half of the $2,300 cost is being paid with a state grant and the two cities are splitting the rest.
With reduced local government aid and the tight economy, Guptill said small towns constantly look for ways to maximize dollars by sharing services and equipment with other government entities.
New London has "always tried to be efficient," but she said the current economy has "forced us to look a little harder."
Proof of budget-cutting is seen in the city's 2012 budget which includes expenses of $547,188, nearly $24,000 less than this year.
But even though city expenses are decreasing next year, city taxes are increasing by 10.5 percent to make up for a $41,000 reduction in local government aid from the state and the effects of the state's new homestead market value exclusion, which reduced the city's taxable market value by nearly 7.5 percent. The city had been averaging an 8 percent increase in taxable market values over the last 10 years, said Guptill.
The state is eliminating the homestead market value credit -- which showed up on property tax statements as a reduction in tax for individual taxpayers that was then paid back to local governments by the state.
The credit is being replaced with the homestead market value exclusion, which provides for a portion of each home's market value to be excluded from its value for property tax calculations and thus reducing the tax base for local jurisdictions.
Rep. Bruce Vogel attended the New London truth-in-taxation hearing and was ready to answer questions about the legislative changes to the tax credit, but Guptill said only two business owners attended the meeting.