Interim administrator says LF can save nearly $100,000 if he stays a year

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

When the Little Falls City Council hired Dan Vogt in late August, it was for a part-time, short-term position. He was hired to act as the interim city administrator for several months and help the Council find a permanent, full-time city administrator.

Tuesday night, during a Council budget meeting, Vogt said he would be willing to extend that contract agreement through 2013, to save the city approximately $75,000 in the 2013 budget.

“Right now I’m doing everything being the city administrator,” he said.

In addition, because Vogt has experience negotiating union contracts, he offered to negotiate for the city, saving another $15,000 – $20,000 in costs related to an outside negotiator being hired.

If the Council agrees to this arrangement and reduces the budget by nearly $100,000, Vogt said the proposed increase in the city’s levy could be reduced to 2.52 percent.

The budget presented to the Council included $126,000 for salary and benefits for a full-time administrator, and reflected a 4.82 percent levy increase.

Vogt complimented the work Jerry Lochner and Lori Kasella had done as interim administrators, saying they did “a great job.” Vogt said he’s been getting a great reaction from city staff as well.

As far as the budget, Vogt said department heads had done as good a job with their budgets as he’d seen in his career.

“Very realistic, very conservative,” he said.

Most funding requests from community organizations remained close to or at the 2012 levels.

However, the Morrison County Animal Humane Society (MCAHS) requested $31,500, an increase of just over 100 percent than last year’s request of $15,600.

The Pine Grove Zoo requested $110,000, an increase of $10,000 over what it received in 2012.

The Council decided to meet with representatives from the MCAHS and the Pine Grove Zoo to discuss their requests before making a decision.

Vogt told the Council that its debt levy requirement for 2013 is $1.724 million — half of the city’s levy. The recap he presented showed that figure to be the peak in the years from 2009 to 2018.

“For every $1 levied for services, $1 is levied for debt,” he said, as the city continues to pay for projects approved years ago as well as those approved in recent years.

In 2014, provided no new projects are bonded for, the debt levy requirement will drop to $1.653 million.

When the city bonds for projects which make up the debt levy requirement, such as street improvement projects, the bonds are typically repaid over a 15-year period.

The city’s local government aid (LGA) for 2013 is expected to remain at the same level as in 2012, at $2.089 million. A pie chart showed LGA makes up nearly half of the city’s budget revenue, with $1.532 million in taxes bringing in 35 percent of the city’s revenue.

Vogt said residents will receive their proposed property tax statements between Nov. 10 – 24.

A public hearing outlining the city’s budget and levy will be held Monday, Dec. 3, before the Council votes to adopt a final 2013 budget and levy.

In other business, the Council approved a request from the Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) to use $15,200 from the city-held Tourism Fund to advertise four events being planned over the winter months.

These events are designed to draw tourists to the city during the off-season. The advertising includes publications in the Metro and St. Cloud area.

The vote was 6-2, opposed by Council Members Frank Gosiak and Jeremy Hanfler. They felt the CVB should advertise in November and determine the response generated before committing to advertising in December and January 2013.

The Tourism Fund has a balance of $35,000. These funds come from the lodging and restaurant taxes paid in the city each year. The city retains a portion of these taxes — $16,000 — each year.