The Cloquet City Council unanimously approved a small preliminary levy increase for 2022 and the proposed 2022 budget during its meeting Tuesday, Sept. 22.

The council approved a 3.49% levy increase for 2022. This amounts to a levy of approximately $3.24 million, which is about $110,000 more than 2021's levy of $3.13 million

City administrator Tim Peterson said that Cloquet had a taxable market value increase of 4.49% in 2021.

"This increase in value comes from existing and new constructions," Peterson said. "We're trying to always stay under that increased value, so we're recommending the overall preliminary levy of 3.49%."

The council also approved its 2022 proposed budget, which projects approximately $20 million in revenue and $21.3 million in expenditures.

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Some of the aspects that contributed to the predicted deficit included assumed health insurance increases of about 5% for city staff, planning for potential retirements, and increased police department expenditures.

"Workers comp is the largest portion of that last one," Peterson said. "That increased by $118,000 in that department. We're also seeing more workers comp increases across the board."

Sales tax projects in the 2022 budget included the second portion of 14th Street construction, a potential J-turn along Minnesota Highway 33 and utility work.

Across the board, Peterson said most of the conversations he had with department heads consisted of looking for potential cuts to keep the budget around the same amount as last year.

"It was a difficult year," Peterson said. "Every meeting started off with us saying 'We probably shouldn't ask for more than we had last year.' We're trying to limit these increases planned for further years by making these smaller increases now, but it's hard to plan for further down the line than a year or two."

The council approved the preliminary levy and proposed budget unanimously, with two council members, Mayor Gary Maki and councilmember Kerry Kolodge absent. The council can still choose to adjust the levy down when it sets the final levy in December. State law allows the city to decrease the preliminary levy, but prohibits it from increasing it once it is set.

The council also set its truth-in-taxation meeting for Dec. 7.

New finance director

At the same meeting, the council unanimously approved, with two members absent, the appointment of Katie Bloom to the position of finance director for the city of Cloquet.

Bloom comes to the city from Moose Lake where she served as deputy clerk and finance director since 2017 and city administrator since June 2020.

Former finance director Nancy Klassen retired in September.