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CLOQUET CITY COUNCIL: City Council passes 2017 budget, levy

First up on the Cloquet City Council business at Tuesday night's regular meeting was the 2017 final budget, capital improvement plan and property tax levy. There were few changes because council members have been discussing the CIP and long-term ...

First up on the Cloquet City Council business at Tuesday night's regular meeting was the 2017 final budget, capital improvement plan and property tax levy. There were few changes because council members have been discussing the CIP and long-term budget draft proposals over the last three years and again during several work sessions this year.

The city utilizes a four-year operating budget to help it monitor the long-term impact of any service level decisions.

The more notable changes to the 2017 budget are Lixipol Policy Fee, a web-based policy program the police department utilizes, for $7,000; a Hilltop Park sidewalk project for $15,000; and additional security doors at City Hall with a price tag of $1,300. Other changes are the Laserfiche Public Module, which will enable residents to access information electronically from city hall, $20,000, plus Laserfiche annual fees, $2,500; increased mowing along Highway 33, $20,000; and the countywide law enforcement Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system upgrade at $46,500.

Police Chief Steve Stracek explained the CAD System is a real time command and control process which dispatches officers to calls and allows the officers to do paperwork directly from the cars.

“The current system is old and antiquated,” said Stracek.

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He explained the system they currently use is not user friendly for the digital age, it does not allow the officers to input records from their cars, but requires that they wait until they get back to the building.

The new program, Zuercher, is supposed to be much more efficient as well as have better accessibility capabilities with other law enforcement agencies.

Stracek initially thought the new system would cost less and recently discovered the actual price.

The other changes from 2016 to 2017, such as the leap in healthcare cost, had been discussed at past meetings. The insurance increase for 2017 is a whopping 27.4 percent higher than last year. The preliminary budget did include the full amount but city finance director Nancy Klassen estimated about 20 percent of the city employees will opt out of the health insurance. While the council did vote to pass the 2017 non-union health insurance renewal, they also agreed to add an alternative group health plan beginning in 2017.

The city is proposing total spending of $21,267,720 with revenues of $24,594,300 for 2017. That means an increase in outgoing money of 18.21 percent. One third of the spending will go toward water services, including sewer and stormwater systems.

As discussed previously, the proposed property tax levy increase is 5.69 percent, due in part to the city's parks department requested increase from $300,000 to $350,000 to help with the costs incurred after adding an additional employee and some of the recent capital improvements.

Smaller changes slated for the 2017 budget include a part-time library position that will be made into a full-time position, an additional summer seasonal employee in the Parks Department and a possible school liaison police officer position. The liaison officer first appeared in the Cloquet School District in the 1990s and the cost was split between the police department and the school 75/25 with the help of a federal grant. That position was eliminated when the grant funding ran out.

The city also increase its 2017 rates to provide law enforcement services to the city of Scanlon for $117,650.

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Other major changes to the 2017 budget are the mayor and city council have been combined into one department. The budget includes $10,000 for the every-other-year strategic planning retreat.

The community cleanup day has been removed from the budget.

The $18,500 cost for elections has been removed from the budget because there are no elections in 2017.

In the administration department $25,000 has been added to accommodate and upgrade to the city’s website in 2017.

A few other bills for the 2017 budget target maintenance of buildings. The roof at City Hall needs to be replaced at an estimated cost of $130,000, and there are a few smaller projects at the public works building.

The library will be getting a new air conditioner compressor for $7,000 next year also.

Although the council members did vote to pass the budget, CIP and property tax levy, the budget can still be adjusted during the year, but the tax levy is set.

In other council news:

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  • The action to approve adopting alcoholic beverage licensing amendments passed. There have been few changes to the ordinance over the years and now staff has the opportunity to review and clarify as well as add new sections if they like. The new changes can make it easier for businesses like a brewers pub, micro-distillery and similar businesses to open in Cloquet.

  • Snowplows are now able to begin at 3 a.m. and have most streets cleared by the time most people need to leave for work.

  • Stantec was awarded the contract for the final phases of design and construction administration of the new skate park for Athletic Park. If everything stays on schedule, the project will go out on bid in March 2017 with construction beginning the following spring.

  • A discussion of city employees taking home work vehicles was tabled until a work session at a later time. Currently in Cloquet there are six city vehicles that go home with the following employees: city engineer, police chief, two police commanders and two detectives/sergeants.
Related Topics: CLOQUET CITY COUNCIL
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