Newport adopts altered 2010 preliminary budget$10,000 cut in levy called "a political game" by one council person, mayor asserts move reigns in spending
By: Jon Avise, South Washington County Bulletin
Newport City Council narrowly passed a preliminary 2010 budget and property tax levy Thursday, with one council member saying a move to levy $10,000 less than the budget originally presented to council was just “a political game.”
The city’s $2.5 million preliminary 2010 budget, which will gain final approval in December, will see property taxes jump by more than $100 for a home valued at $200,000 thanks largely to a $168,000 special levy that will help fill the void of state aid lost by the city in 2008 and 2009.
City Administrator Brian Anderson originally proposed a $178,000 special levy to city council members, needed to help “weather the storm,” he said. But Mayor Tim Geraghty pushed to lessen the special levy by $10,000 and was backed Thursday by council members Corb Hopkins and Bill Sumner.
The city, though, may not be able to levy less than the state-mandated special levy maximum of $178,000, said city attorney Fritz Knaack. The state statute is unclear, he told the council; if it’s not permissible, the $10,000 would come out of the 2010 general fund levy.
Geraghty said his reasoning behind advocating the cut was “the more money you have, the more you’ll spend.”
Councilmember Pauline Schottmuller, who voted against the preliminary budget and levy along with Tom Ingemann, said the move was “a political game.”
“I’m going to vote no on this because I don’t play political games,” she said. “That’s why I’m not long for up here.”
Schottmuller suggested Thursday cutting from the $22,062 budgeted in 2010 for mayor and council salaries, the same proposal she made at an August workshop that was not discussed further.
Property tax hike Pawlenty’s fault, Schottmuller says
Halted development and construction, decreasing property values and tax revenues, and state aid cuts all conspired to make Newport City Administrator Brian Anderson’s first budgeting process in the city a rough ride.
“It’s rather challenging economic times for most people,” he said Thursday.
In Newport, perhaps the largest contributor to the 2010 budget blues was the unallotment of more than $370,000 in state aid that was due to the city between 2008 and 2010.
On Thursday, longtime city council member Pauline Schottmuller didn’t mince words in placing the blame squarely on Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s shoulders.
She said the second-term governor heaped the state’s financial woes on local governments when he unalloted almost $200 million in aid to local cities, aid Newport has increasingly relied upon as the Wakota Bridge construction project has dragged on due to scores of delays.
“We up here have not raised your taxes,” she said. “Pawlenty raised your property taxes.”