The Cloquet City Council unanimously approved a small preliminary levy increase for 2021 and the proposed budget during its meeting Tuesday, Sept. 15.

The council approved a 4% increase for 2021. The total levy will rise to $3,164,750, which is $121,750 over 2020 levels. The levy increase covers an increase in operating costs for the city and some planned purchases in 2021.

The operations levy increase of approximately $43,000 will cover expected increases in health insurance costs, as well as expected wage and contractual increases next year. Most of the remainder of the levy increase is an increase in the Public Works budget to pay for the replacement of the playground equipment at Pinehurst Park.

The 4% increase is slightly higher than the projected need, but City Administrator Tim Peterson said the council can choose to adjust it down when it sets the final levy in December. State law allows the city to decrease the preliminary levy, but prohibits it from going up once it is set.

“I think it’s reasonable to support 4%,” Ward 4 Councilor Kerry Kolodge said. “Although I don’t foresee that to be the final number, but I think just a bit of a cushion is OK.”

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The council also approved its 2021 proposed budget, which projects approximately $17.9 million in revenue and $19.5 million in expenditures. Despite the differences in revenue and expenditures, Peterson said much of the deficit is covered by sales tax and revenue the city has already collected and intends to spend on projects in 2021.

In reality, Peterson said he expects the city to see a net loss of $37,500 next year.

Finally, the city set its truth-in-taxation meeting for 7 p.m. Dec. 1.