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Financial report has Cloquet in favorable position

Councilor at large Lara Wilkinson said knowing the city is financially stable amidst inflation is positive as the city puts together its budget.

Cloquet City Hall.jpg
Cloquet City Hall. 2019 file / Pine Journal
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CLOQUET — The Cloquet City Council approved the financial audit report for 2021 presented during a regular council meeting Tuesday, Aug. 2.

Michelle Swoboda, a representative for WIPFLI, presented the audit to the council and shared that the city had a net position increase of $2.35 million from $63.74 million in 2020 to $66.09 million in 2021.

Swoboda said this increase came mainly from a decrease in public safety spending at $3.51 million, compared to $6.30 million in 2020.

She explained that the change came from state policy that changed in 2021.

Some other notable aspects of the audit Swoboda shared with the board included the general fund having an increase in revenues by $497,000, with the expenditures coming in $5,000 under budget.

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Swoboda did note that the city had one significant deficiency in its report, but that was due to the auditors preparing the city's financials, which Swoboda said is common with most audits done.

City Administrator Tim Peterson said being able to control expenses in the general fund, especially for department heads, is crucial.

"That is fairly ridiculous I would say," he said. "That is pretty much coming spot-on."

Peterson said that revenues are also slightly skewed as the city got half of its federal COVID-19 funding, and he anticipates it will be skewed again next year with the second half of the funding coming through.

When it comes to budgeting, Councilor at large Lara Wilkinson, who was the acting mayor for the evening, said this is a positive start for the city.

"I think we are all pretty acutely aware of the pressures of inflation and higher property values assessments, " she said. "Knowing that we are in a really stable financial situation and that we have a good base to work from helps us prepare a solid budget," she said.

Wilkinson said each councilor would have their own opinions on what the city should focus on, but the council is aware of the challenges the community is facing.

"We are super-conscious about what kind of levy we set and what impacts that has on the taxpayers," she said.

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Peterson said the council will get to see the initial draft of the budget at its next meeting on Aug. 16.

In other city business, the council approved a conditional use permit to rezone a commercially zoned property to build four new apartments.

The request, which was approved unanimously from the planning and zoning commission, came from Tony Nguyen, who currently owns nine other apartments on the adjacent property at 807 and 809 Sunnyside Dr.

After passing the motion, Wilkinson said it is always good for the city to add more housing opportunities.

"Given that it is in an area that has similar housing it seemed very fitting," she said.

Peterson added that the city has a consistent goal of adding housing and increasing any kind of housing in the city is beneficial.

"When we look at the ability of being able to add an additional four units, that is four more people that can hopefully find access to a home in Cloquet," he said.

MORE FROM DYLAN SHERMAN:
City officials have until the end of the calendar year to change the city budget to account for the increase. A proposal could come before the council as soon as its Dec. 6 meeting. The new rate would add $3.95 to residential water bills.

Related Topics: CLOQUETCLOQUET CITY COUNCILGOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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