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Cottage Grove trims spending in preliminary budget

In an attempt to tighten the proposed budget for fiscal year 2014, the Cottage Grove City Council last week identified roughly $80,000 in cuts.

During its budget workshop last week, the council re-evaluated several requests from the public works, parks and recreation and public safety departments to be more in line with the state-mandated property tax levy limit.

Public Works Director Les Burshten detailed the department's $2.23 million budget during a workshop earlier this month and asked for $104,000 in new equipment, which included a walk behind road paver.

Council member Dave Thiede questioned if the current equipment would suffice for another year. While the paver, Burshten said, would assist public works employees in paving the roads more efficiently, he said it can also wait until 2015.

At the recommendation of City Administrator Ryan Schroeder, the council also nixed the public works intern position, which cost $15,000 annually, and allocated those dollars in the budget for the public works analyst position.

The parks and recreation department, which saw the bulk of the reductions, will have $62,000 less to combat Emerald Ash Borer. With 2014 being a non insecticide treating year, Zac Dockter, department director, said the tree cutting process will not be impacted.

While the public safety department did not see any cuts, the council decided to move up the start date of new firefighters and emergency service personnel from July 2014 to January 2014, a change that would add back $20,000 to the budget.

"Hiring in January would help us create a police schedule that is a less medical route," Police Chief Craig Woolery said. "Adding two in July would work, but having them in January would help us balance out the EMT and fire schedules."

Council member Justin Olsen said during previous council workshops that he wanted the department to have adequate staffing as it continues the transition to a firefighter and EMT-focused department and was in favor of the earlier start date for public safety personnel.

"What we did was come to a compromise," Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey said. "I feel very comfortable going to the voters (with this budget)."

Finance Director Robin Roland said the budget was balanced and "we can live within it and provide the things you want to provide at a reasonable percentage increase."

The council has two more budget workshops this month and will submit its preliminary budget Sept. 4 with adoption of the final budget in December.