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South Washington County budgets 'balanced' for 2014

Several months of discussion regarding next year’s city spending came to a close last week as Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park and Newport adopted their fiscal year 2014 budgets.

The cities’ levies vary — two are increasing while one is dropping — but all finance department leaders say the budgets are balanced.

Cottage Grove, whose budget Finance Director Robin Roland said was the same as the preliminary levy resolution, was adopted with a levy increase of 3.7 percent increase. Roughly 2.19 percent of the increase is attributed to general operations and 1.25 percent attributed to debt payment.

For the first time in five years the city of Cottage Grove will see an increase to its tax base by 4 percent, which Roland said was “very exciting.”

Because of a statewide sales tax exemption for local governments, the city will save $75,000 in its general fund and $125,000 in all other city funds.

Local Government Aid will also be restored, but Roland said the small increase totals less than 1 percent of the general fund budget. Cottage Grove hasn’t received Local Government Aid since the early 2000s.

In St. Paul Park, residents will see a 1.7 percent decrease in the city levy, which City Administrator Kevin Walsh said is a roughly $83 decrease in city taxes on a home valued at $136,400.

“About 80 percent (of residents) will see this savings,” Walsh added.

Also decreased is the city’s government expenses, down $1,350 from 2013. However, the budget calls for an $11,300 increase in city administration expenses.

Recent state legislation exempting cities from sales tax will help save the city of St. Paul Park roughly $50,000 in 2014.

“We have a very lean yet conservative budget,” council member Jeff Swenson said. “It’s very workable for the citizens and the management of the city.”

In Newport, City Administrator Deb Hill detailed the changes since the city set its preliminary levy earlier this year.

During a meeting in November, the council discussed a budget change that projected a 2.62 percent increase in the city’s levy which will go toward debt service. Hill said it will not add spending to the projected $2.4 million general fund budget.

A breakdown of the city’s general fund budget shows 42 percent will be allocated to law enforcement and fire, 16 percent to streets, 14 percent to parks and recreation and 28 percent to general government expenses.

With the city’s good budgeting throughout the years, Hill said, the city will also save around $40,000 in 2014 because Standards and Poor’s bumped up the city’s credit rating from A1 to AA.

“One of our plans is to keep the budget pretty much where it was because we’ll be rated again when we go out for bonding for street work next year,” Hill said. “So we want to see those savings at the maximum amount.”

In 2014, there will also be a $7,500 reduction in general government spending.

City budget highlights

St. Paul Park

- Total decrease of 1.7 percent to the levy

- Total general fund budget of $3.06 million

- $452,209 increase in Local Government Aid

- Increased police and fire expenses, $68,000 increase to police, $17,525 increase to fire

- $43,500 increase to streets and roadways expenses

Cottage Grove

- Total levy increase of 3.7 percent

- Total general fund budget of $14.3 million

- $59,600 increase in Local Government Aid

- Police, fire PERA increase of $57,000 to general fund budget

- $171,500 for equipment replacement


- Total levy increase of 2.62 percent

- Total general fund budget of $2.4 million

- $38,462 increase in Local Government Aid

- City expenditures to decrease by $18,658

- $31,000 increase to police from Toward Zero Death grant

- $108,000 for equipment capital replacement