Cloquet officials project 5.97% levy increase for 2023
The total 2023 proposed tax levy amount will be $3.43 million compared to the $3.24 million in 2022.
CLOQUET — City staff anticipate a 5.97% increase to the city's tax levy after a budget presentation Tuesday, Aug. 16.
According to the presentation, the total 2023 proposed tax levy amount will be $3.43 million compared to $3.24 million in 2022.
City Administrator Tim Peterson said staff have been working at reducing the figure, which stood around 8% last week, and it is likely as low as it is going to get.
Peterson said one of the things cut was an outside wage study, which will now be done by the assistant city administrator in order to save the city $36,000.
One of the largest increases for the upcoming year is with the police and public safety department. According to the proposed budget, there is a 5.7% increase from $3.52 million to $3.72 million, an increase of $200,000.
Some of the increases within the department include higher health insurance costs of $13,000 — an increase of 5% over last year — and $78,700 increase to wages and benefits — a 3.31% increase over last year.
Peterson said there is an increase in workers' compensation of $87,000, and the city budgeted too low in 2022 at $64,000.
"We budgeted considerably low (last year), and we knew we were going to budget low and cover that with (American Rescue Plan Act reserves)," he said. "What we are trying to do with this budget is catch back up with workers' (compensation) we are seeing."
Peterson said the city will budget similarly in the next year and cover the increase with ARPA funds.
The police department budget is also adding in $5,000 for taser replacement, which Peterson said was important as the department's taser stock is in need of updating.
Across the police and transportation departments, the city is budgeting for the higher fuel costs.
Peterson said the general fund shows a $416,000 deficit, but that is largely made up of the $300,000 the city is looking to spend on broadband expansion.
"The $116,000 we can continue to make up with ARPA," he said. "That has been our plan for the last year."
Some of the other increases the city has seen were budgets for staff training as more in-person training is available, which has more costs than virtual training events.
According to the presentation, wage increases across all departments totaled $140,000.
While the council did not have to vote on anything during the meeting, it will vote on a preliminary levy during its meeting on Sept. 6.
Peterson added that the proposed levy during the meeting came after city staff worked to figure out the lowest budgets possible.
"We were successful in coming up with the tightest budget we could," he said. "We are always concerned to keep any increase as low as possible."
In other city business, the council approved the site plan for a Caribou Coffee at 707 Minnesota Highway 33 South. While no representative from the business was present for the meeting, Al Cottingham, the city's planning and zoning administrator, said the developer hopes to start construction soon.
The meeting was also the final meeting for Ward 3 Councilor Chris Swanson, who announced his resignation last month due to moving outside of his ward.
Mayor Roger Maki commended Swanson for quickness at getting up to speed with the council and for consistently being prepared for meetings.
Swanson took the opportunity to thank his colleagues on the council and city staff for their help during his time on the council. He said he hopes to remain engaged.
"I'll be around," he said.
This story was updated at 10:10 a.m Aug. 17, to include information on the Caribou Coffee site plan approval. It was originally posted at 10:23 p.m. Aug. 16.