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Wendy Reuer, Published December 19 2011

Moorhead to raise taxes, retain community partnerships

MOORHEAD – The City Council unanimously passed a 2012 budget Monday that will raise taxes but keep community partnerships intact.

The $63 million budget is a decrease from 2011, but the property tax levy will increase to $7.4 million. The increase will raise property taxes 6.3 percent on the average $140,000 home, or $23 per year.

The council passed a budget amendment requiring City Manager Michael Redlinger to use general fund reserves to continue partnerships with River Keepers, the Metro Youth Partnership, the Arts Partnership, the Humane Society and FirstLink.

“They directed me to come back in 2012 and look at areas to reduce even more to try and pay the reserves back,” Redlinger said.

The council directed Redlinger not to use any money from funds for snow plowing, street cleaning or grass mowing to continue funding the community partnerships. He will have to find it elsewhere.

Monday’s budget already shaves about $67,000 in proposed street maintenance, snow plowing and grass mowing services. Although initial reduction proposals included cutting back on 2011 enhanced services, such as removing snowpiles from cul-de-sacs after plowing, Redlinger said Monday that those services will remain. “The $67,000 reduction will be targeted to summertime maintenance activities. We’ll continue to haul the snow out of cul-de-sacs, as we did in 2011.”

Councilwoman Brenda Elmer said she was previously against raising property taxes another increment to continue funding the partnerships, but felt they should be kept.

“They do perform many functions the city cannot do or cannot do efficiently,” Elmer said.

The council faced cutting city services or raising property taxes to account for a loss in more than $1 million dollars in state aid this year.

The final budget includes cutting two city staff positions, a street maintenance position and a Community Services planner.

However, it will retain current police officer and firefighter staffing levels by increasing the amount of transfer from the electricity fund by 1 percent.

The Fire Department will undergo management realignment, and a new fire chief will be sought from within the department.

The department has been without a chief since January, when Joel Hewitt resigned.

The budget and levy were passed Monday with a 7-0 vote after no discussion. The amended motion was nearly identical to one that failed Dec. 12.

Elmer, along with council members Nancy Otto, Mark Altenburg, Diane Wray Williams, Dan Hunt, Mark Hintermeyer and Greg Lemke, voted to approve the budget.

Councilman Luther Stueland was unable to attend the meeting due to a medical procedure, Mayor Mark Voxland said.

The council also unanimously passed its 2012 $345,000 Economic Development Authority budget and levy of $245,000 Monday.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530