Pierz Council says no levy increase for sixth straight year

Council continues to work to ‘live  within city’s means’

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

The proposed property tax levy for the city of Pierz was set at $280,515; just as was in 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008.

For the sixth straight year, the Pierz City Council voted for a 0 percent increase in its levy Monday, and it has to stick to that number, because after the Sept. 15 certification to the county, there’s no going up.

Once a city sets its preliminary levy and certifies it to the count, it can reduce the levy amount before the final certification in December, but it may not increase it.

City Administrator Anna Gruber said the Council made line item budget cuts that affected every department.

“The line item cuts were basically just cutting the ‘cushion’ and ‘just in case’ money that we had extra on each line item,” she said.

“We also decided to discontinue paying off the Ronald Avenue interfund loan payment that we had going,” she said. The Ronald Avenue bond was paid off last year, she said and this interfund loan was set up for the city to pay itself back.

“We decided to stop doing that since it didn’t really make much sense budget wise,” said Gruber.

The park levy money was also adjusted.

“We had originally been levying $35,900 for the parks and this was being used primarily at the Pierz Park complex,” she said.

“It was determined that the Public Works Department was maintaining the other parks and the levy money should be shifted to the general fund so that it could be used in Public Works instead of for just one park in town,” said Gruber.

The $15,000 that remained in the park levy for the Pierz Park was moved to the general fund levy to help support the general fund and maintenance of the remaining parks in Pierz.

Mayor Toby Egan said city council members were simply “living within our means.”

He said the Council looked at what department heads requested for budgets and “stripped the budget down and started from square one.”

Because extra money originally levied for the park was moved to the general fund, the Council “Bumped up our dedicated funds for future replacement of large equipment, things of that nature,” said Egan.

“A few of the department heads had to give up things they hadn’t used in the past few years, that we were budgeting for,” he said.

Egan said if the money hadn’t been used, or had been under-used and left for a cushion, it was taken out.

Except for the Police Department and Fire Department, “Pretty much every department took a budget cut,” he said.

Not increasing the levy for the past six years doesn’t put the city in a situation where, at some point, it will have to tax citizens at a higher rate, said Egan.

“We’re doing what every family across America is doing — living within our means. There’s no reason that we cannot continue to do that,” he said. “We can’t go out and tell people that, even though they’re forced to live within their means, their government won’t. We can’t do that.”

“We’d love to have a never-ending supply of money,” he said. “God knows you could always do something.”

Egan said he feels, “There’s no reason our local, state and federal governments cannot live within their means — none. Other than the fact that we all like to spend more money than we have.”

However, Egan did admit that if significant cuts were made to the city local government aid, it would put the city’s finances in “a whole new light.”

Pierz City Council Briefs

In other business at Monday’s meeting, the Pierz City Council:

• Tabled a discussion on a dog licensing program;

• Set its Truth in Taxation hearing for Monday, Dec. 10, at 7 p.m. during the regular City Council meeting;

• Set employee reviews for Monday, Oct. 29, beginning at 6 p.m.;

• Approved a building permit for Rose Loidolt for a cement driveway;

• Heard from Planning and Zoning that Barb Tretter had applied for a variance for an addition to the Hillbilly Motel, due to insufficient setbacks on the south side. Neighbors within 1,000 feet will be notified of a public hearing for the variance;

• Accepted Mike Kapsner’s low bid of $3,863 to repair the steel roof on the city’s shop, the south building. The roof is leaking and starting to rust;

• Heard from Police Chief Eric Hanneken that two fraud cases involving traveler’s checks had been turned over to federal authorities;

• Heard Hanneken report that the city’s Oktoberfest celebration was held without incident;

• Received a report regarding the Small Cities Development Program (SCDP) grant period from June 2010 through December 2012. It showed that in Pierz nine commercial projects were completed at a total of $205,969; one in little Falls, for $20,414 and two in Royalton – $43,617.

The owner-occupied rehabilitation funds were for 10 projects completed in Pierz for $190,300; nine in Little Falls – $148,495 and three in Royalton, for $60,205. The SCDP grant funds, which are offered as low-interest or no-interest loans, were split between Pierz, Little Falls and Royalton.

The cities have been awarded another round of SCDP grant money. Businesses and residents interested in the program should contact their respective cities;

• Heard Golf Course Superintendent Daniel Baert say the golf course had its best August in years and so far its best September and that the course is about $30,000 ahead of what it was at this time last year. Baert will decide in October when the course will close; and

• Noted that Pierz City Hall will be intermittently open and closed Thursday and Friday, Sept. 20 – 21. Regular hours will resume Monday, Sept. 24. Those who want to make an electric payment during those days may drop payment in the payment drop box outside of City Hall. These boxes will be checked Monday, Sept. 24. If there is an emergency or public safety assistance is needed, residents are asked to call the Pierz Police Department at (320) 630-2486. Those with an administrative emergency may call the city administrator at (320) 292-4046 and leave a message.

The next meeting for the Pierz City Council will be held Monday, Sept. 24, at 7 p.m.