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Paynesville cuts 2009 preliminary levy from 7.5 to 3.5 percent increase

PAYNESVILLE -- The Paynesville City Council whittled down its 2009 preliminary levy increase by about 4 percent during Wednesday's special meeting.

Mayor Jeff Thompson said Thursday the City Council approved a 7.5 percent increase to the 2009 preliminary levy prior to Wednesday's budget workshop. By the end of the special meeting, he said, the levy was down to a 3.5 percent increase from the 2008 levy.

Wednesday was the first meeting when the council went deep into the budget, Thompson said, after the department heads, administration and the city's budget and finance committee had trimmed down the preliminary budget.

Thompson said the City Council called the meeting to have the levy and budget prepared before the city's Truth-in-Taxation hearing and final budget certification, both in December.

The city is expecting an operating budget around $1.9 million, Thompson said.

"There's not anything that, I guess, is extraordinary or above-and-beyond what it has been," Thompson said. "But it's basically just keeping up with the increasing costs and need to continue to provide services."

Thompson said the council still has much to discuss with the budget. The city is still undergoing labor negotiations with some of its employees, and personnel makes up a large chunk of the city budget, Thompson said. The city has a tentative agreement with one labor organization, Thompson said, but is waiting on an arbitration process with the Police Department.

"Labor costs are going to be one of the big concerns for budget reasons in 2009," Thompson said. "But we're under the gun to have those figures ready for the Truth-in-Taxation hearings."

In other news:

- Thompson said the council discussed the status of the municipal liquor store. Similar to other municipal liquor stores in the state, Paynesville's has struggled to make larger profits with the increasing transportation costs and declining economy.

- Paynesville is advertising for bids on its new emergency services building after the City Council approved the building plans, Thompson said.

- Thompson said the Minnesota Department of Transportation is working on right-of-way agreements for the state Highway 23 bypass through Paynesville. Construction for the bypass is slated for May 2010.