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Newport proposes 2.9 percent levy increase

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news Cottage Grove, 55016
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

The Newport City Council got its first solid look at the proposed 2014 budget last week, which projects a 2.9 percent increase in the property tax levy.

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The preliminary budget plan proposes raising general fund spending to $4.6 million, a roughly 1 percent increase over the current year's spending, with the bulk of the increase coming from general government and public safety expenditures.

The public safety department, including fire and police, projects spending $1.04 million in 2014, an increase that primarily consists of personnel services and a $6,000 raise for employees and an increase in employee retirement funding.

"The increase in PERA is mandated by the legislators," City Administrator Deb Hill said. "We have no choice (but to increase the amount)."

The Newport Police Department was awarded a $15,000 grant to be designated to the overtime fund to allow police officers to conduct safe-and-sober campaigns and extra DWI enforcement. The grant will also cover some of the increased PERA costs.

The budget proposes a $5,711 decrease in the fire department's budget, mainly due to a reduction in office supplies, fuel and capital outlay.

The general fund spending includes a $691,000 general government expense, a $10,000 increase from the current year's expenses.

The city is budgeting $12,000 in expenses from the information technology department for the addition of new computers. The city's administration department is proposing a budget of $287,000, a $14,000 increase over the current year's number.

As part of the 2014 budget, the city is transferring $51,500 to the economic development authority to build up the fund balance to continue to buy properties along the river on Cedar Lane.

"We need to build this fund back to buy these properties and the ones that are left aren't the cheap ones," Hill said.

Future capital projects are on the minds of council members, who also briefly discussed the possibility of a new City Hall. Council member Tracy Rahm questioned if it is in the council's best interest to either repair the current building in the future or investigate other properties.

"I think we'd all like to have a new image," council member Tom Ingemann said, and entertained the idea of bonding.

The council is expected to review the proposed budget once more before submitting the preliminary budget Sept. 5.

-Emily Buss

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