Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By A. R. Vander Vegt
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Sturgeon Lake council discusses 2019 budget


August 30, 2018

Sturgeon Lake council members met together Thursday, August 23 in a meeting to discuss 2019’s budget. A preliminary budget is due September 20 with proposals to raise taxes, if such a proposal were to come up, being present at that time. In December, a final budget must be submitted. At that point, taxes can no longer be raised though the budget could be reduced.

Mayor Elizabeth Cisar and Clerk Carole Lahti presented the board with a rough draft of 2019’s budget based on numbers from 2018. The spreadsheets included actual expenses and revenues dating back to 2015. For 2018, the actual year-to-date expenses were included alongside the final 2018 budget.

Three prominent discussions arose throughout the meeting: setting up a salary budget, budgeting more money into the roads and blight clean-up, as well as bolstering water and sewer funds with an eye toward city aid and expansion.

Currently, the way the budget is structured, city employees’ salary and pay comes from various parts of the budget. Councilor Marsha Helfman suggested a budget be set aside for the express purpose of salary. This would consolidate the trail of pieces throughout the budget that makes up someone’s salary, making it more straight-forward and user-friendly. “We need to make it easier for people to understand,” Helfman said.

Lahti supported Helfman’s idea and brings the experience of having altered a budget before to reflect similar changes. Helfman made a resolution and the council passed it. At the next budget meeting, the spreadsheets will reflect the salary budget.

One goal of the meeting, giving rise to the other two points of discussion, is outlining a realistic but dream budget. While changing and discussing numbers, hoped-for caps were put on funds, but those numbers are being held lightly. The council recognized that when it came to cutting down the budget to size, those caps could be whittled down.

In the Streets, Sidewalks, and Utilities category of the budget, the Grading and Chloride and Road Repairs categories will be combined. As the city moves toward laying down purple basalt rather than traditional gravel, grading and chloride will not be as frequent of an occurrence. For 2018, a total of $14,500 was budgeted between the two subcategories. For the 2019 budget, the council high-balled expense to be $18,000.

Councilor Russell Correira advocated for a blight-related reserve fund. After discussion, it was decided that such a fund would be used for larger blight projects, though specifics of that will be nailed down as the budget comes into clearer focus. An arbitrary amount of $15,000 was budgeted for the larger blight projects.

Funds in the Expansions and Additions budget for water and sewer featured prominently in discussion as well. The city is currently working with a start-up looking to open in Sturgeon Lake. Overhead cost for the young company is substantial, and the cost to hook up to the city’s water and sewer is being proposed at $43,000 — a “sticker shock” for them, as public worker Scott Helfman put it.

At present, the city does have budgeted money to aid utility hookups. The city fronts much of the cost for utility hookup, and the company pays the city back through property taxes over a period of three to seven years.

The council penciled in $15,000 for 2019’s aid fund as a way of encouraging future investments from private business owners in the local economy.

Other business

A resident of Sturgeon Lake expressed concern about the use of boilers and wood burners within city limits.

While concerns for health and smoke exhaust are legitimate, the city has no ordinance regarding installation and maintenance of boilers and wood burners at this time. No formal action was taken regarding the complaint, but the council decided to research how other similar sized towns regulate boilers and wood burners.

Possible parameters could include designating a certain lot size and smoke stack for those looking into wood stoves.

The next city council meeting will take place Thursday, September 13 at 7 p.m.


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