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Cottage Grove ambulance, building inspector included in planned 3 percent levy increase

Cottage Grove's 2018 levy will fund public safety equipment and a full-time building inspector.

City council members decided early on in the budget process that they did not want to go above a 3 percent increase to the property tax levy. All requests made at the July 26 and Aug. 2 city council workshops have been figured into the budget to create the 3 percent increase, so all requests will likely be funded in 2018.

The Public Safety Department requested a new ambulance, costing about $174,000, and stair chairs for $12,000.

Last year, public safety hired more firefighter/ EMTs to complete the change to their staffing model and another officer to allow for shorter, 10 1/2-hour shifts. Public Safety Director Craig Woolery said the shift changes have saved $40,000 in overtime.

"All the heavy lifting has been done in the last five years," Woolery said.

New training programs for both police and fire will add some cost. They are also requesting an investigator's vehicle to add to the fleet. The vehicle will be paid for out of the equipment fund, along with a facilities van — costing about $35,000 each.

The Community Development Department is requesting that the part-time building inspector position be increased to a full-time position. The increase for salary and benefits would be about $50,000.

Staff proposed a 2.5 percent increase to their inspection fees, which would cover the salary increase, making the position mostly budget neutral.

The amount of inspections has increased 30 percent over the past five years.

"Our biggest concern is how do we continue our level of service ... do they have to wait 24 hours or four days," Community Development Director Jennifer Levitt said.

The Information Technology will be replacing the City Hall laptops next year, and purchasing new tablets and creating new software online permitting. IT requests will cost over $150,000.

A preliminary levy will be passed in September, and the final budget will be passed by the city council in December.

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