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Council divided on budget discussion

Discussion amongst the Pequot Lakes City Council regarding the city’s 2014 budget led to the council setting a Nov. 19 special meeting. The council needs to agree on the budget in order to pass its final budget and levy by a December deadline.

The council first approved cuts made by Nancy Malecha, city finance administrator, in the amount of $18,000. Malecha said those cuts were made by increasing planning and zoning and state aid revenues and cutting expenditures in areas of sales tax exemption purchases, economic development marketing and contracting services and council operating supplies.

Council member Scott Pederson suggested the city reduce the budget by cutting funding that would go toward the reconstruction of Nelson Road in 2014.

Pederson said currently there’s $200,000 set aside for Nelson Road. He questioned whether the repairs would cost that much.

“I see a lot of what-ifs,” Pederson said. “Sure the road needs fixing, but what does it cost?”

He proposed reducing that budget by around $40,000, which would make a 0 percent increase in the city’s general revenue tax levy from 2013 to 2014.

Both Nelson Road and North Washington Street are set for improvements in 2014. Mayor Nancy Adams suggested cutting the $40,000 from the public works fund in general, rather than choosing what road should be cut, and suggested letting the department decide where to cut funds after a better idea of cost is established.

Council member David Sjoblad said he was concerned that reducing funding to road repairs was kicking the can down the road.

While Adams and Pederson could agree to the public works cut, the rest of the council could not.

Pederson said he simply couldn’t justify the increase in taxes the council is currently set to make.

Sjoblad, however, said he’s fine with leaving the budget as-is. He said there’s no more room to make cuts in the budget besides pulling from future projects.

“I think it’s bad not to look down the road further,” Sjoblad said.

The council decided it will hold a special meeting Tuesday, Nov. 19, at 6:30 p.m. at city hall to discuss how the council might lower the budget. State law requires the council to set its 2014 budget and levy in December.