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Cottage Grove budget requests keep levy increase steady

COTTAGE GROVE — The Cottage Grove budget is looking to hold strong on a 3-percent levy increase goal for 2019.

Finance Director Robin Roland expects an estimated 2019 general fund balance of $13.7 million. The 2018 actual general fund was $13.3 million.

Taxes for homeowners of most home valuations can expect to see a slight dip in the dollar amount owed to the city, even as valuation of properties have continued to see a slight increase.

The 3 percent increase comes from some proposals for increased funding and purchases from city departments listed below.

City staff will present a Facebook Live budget presentation 3 p.m. Aug. 22. The preliminary budget will be voted on at the Sept. 5 City Council meeting, with official approval made in December.

After the initial approval in September, the City Council can vote to decrease the levy, but cannot increase it.

Public safety

Public Safety Director Pete Koerner said the requests were smaller for the 2019 budget in light of several long-term goals being met in the last few years including the newly-constructed Central Fire Station and moving the department a firefighter/EMS staffing model.

To keep the work going, the department proposed adding another captain to its staff to oversee EMS and emergency management. The third captain would account for approximately an $8,700 increase in the public safety staffing budget.

Public Safety also proposed purchasing Handtevy software that will help determine dosages to give children, as well as a mobile light tower and generator, and replacement of their 15-year-old rifles.

Parks

The Parks and Recreation Department is requesting some new and replaced equipment for the River Oaks Golf Course including gold cart replacements, two greens mowers, a lawn aerator and a water filtration system for the Eagles Bar and Grill.

An ice resurfacer was also requested for the Cottage Grove Ice Arena.

The city will work on funding solutions for upcoming replacement of the freon system. The EPA is working to phase out the refrigerant R-22, that many ice arenas including Cottage Grove use.

The city will likely bond for the project in coming years, along with the upcoming HERO (Health and Emergency Response Occupations) Center.

Public works

Public works is requesting a number of equipment replacements, new equipment and some increased costs on supplies.

Staff is anticipating an increase in both asphalt and salt prices for 2019.

Staff also said they need new equipment in the shop, including a new washer, shelving, a hydraulic press and an arc welder.

The department hopes to hire an additional staffer in 2020.

Other departments

City Council is considering a facade improvement program through the Economic Development Authority that would help businesses refurbish the front of their buildings. The proposal is for $25,000 a year in grants for several businesses. The department and City Council will continue to explore criteria, funding and focus area of the program.

The engineering department is proposing an intern and seasonal code enforcement employee.

The IT department is also in need of a new employee.

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