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Detroit Lakes Council hikes levy 14 percent

The preliminary levy and budget for 2008 for the city of Detroit Lakes shows a 14.29 percent increase.

Finance Officer Lou Guzek said 10 percent of that is directly related to Local Government Aid cuts and the remaining is due to inflation and street repairs.

Major changes for the 2008 budget will come in general fund expenditures: A 3 percent wage increase for employees means a $59,000 increase; wage step increases result in another $20,000; .25 percent and 1.2 percent increases in PERA (retirement) benefits because of state law will cost the city $12,000; a 15 percent increase in health insurance costs will cost $65,000; and the city share of 2007 street projects resulted in a bill for $65,000.

The total increase was $221,000.

In revenues, LGA from the state decreased from $1,142,856 to $919,647, a loss of $223,209 for the city.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed a tax bill earlier this year that would have cut that LGA loss in half, then refused to revisit the bill in the special session that was called Tuesday.

To be fair, Pawlenty's veto was forced by DFL leadership, which inserted a last-minute accounting provision that Pawlenty had warned he would veto.

A truth in taxation hearing has been set for Dec. 11 at 5 p.m. in city hall to hear public comment on the 2008 proposal.

Also at the city council meeting, the council:

• Approved the final planned unit development for a six-unit townhome on West Lake Drive where Fairyland Cottages once operated.

• Approved a variance to exceed impervious surface for Emmanuel Community. Emmanuel will have to find a way to stay at the 44 percent impervious surface (for total lot size) that it is already at for its new memory care and assisted living addition.

• Approved the second reading and adoption of an ordinance defining salvage and districts where salvage operations are allowed.

• Set a public hearing for construction of watermain to Tower Road for Oct. 9 at 5 p.m.

• Building permits for the city have increased greatly last month. Last month alone, 80 applications, for projects estimated at $11 million, were received. Mayor Larry Buboltz said that's a "huge difference" from last year.

In all of 2006, permits for projects valued at $18.9 million were received, while in 2007 so far, there have been $34.4 million worth.

• Approved the street capital improvement plan for the next five years. Although nothing is set in stone, the planned projects for each year include, for 2008 -- Richwood Road, Minnesota Avenue, Langford Street, Lincoln Avenue, Parkview Street and Lyndale Avenue. For 2009 -- Long Lake Phase 3, State Street, Front Street and Oakgrove Avenue. For 2010 -- North Washington Avenue, and for 2012 -- North Industrial Park and Tower Road.

• Buboltz thanked City Administrator Rich Grabow for his more than 30 years with the city. Grabow is retiring at the end of the month.