Roads.

That single word sums up why the Lake Shore City Council basically struck out when it met Wednesday, Oct. 9, to try to trim the proposed 2020 budget and resulting preliminary general revenue tax levy.

Of the preliminary $1.3 million levy, the only really big expense is roads, Mayor Kevin Egan said.

“Roads, roads, roads. Other than that it’s rather small stuff,” he said.

City Administrator Teri Hastings shared a budget with adjustments that increased receipts and decreased expenditures by $8,200. She outlined the following possible budget reductions:

  • Use an electronic newsletter only to save approximately $1,500 in printing and postage.

  • Consider donations to civic organizations like the Initiative Foundation, Cass County Economic Development Corp., 4-H and Cass County County Historical Society that total $2,500.

  • Consider reductions to capital outlay in various accounts.

Hastings also outlined grant opportunities the city could pursue, including a $2,500 small projects grant from Sourcewell and a matching $10,000 Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration Safety Grant to use toward city hall improvements.

The council took no action, and the consensus was that even several tiny cuts wouldn’t do much to reduce the overall budget and tax levy.

The preliminary general revenue tax levy is $1,297,255, which is a 24% increase from this year. The preliminary budget totals $1,520,692, which is 19.9% higher than this year. The city can lower - but not raise - its preliminary tax levy before final adoption in December.

Big ticket budget items include a $50,000 increase for road maintenance, $100,000 for road bonds (if the city chooses to bond for road improvements) and a $20,000 increase for city hall maintenance.

The city also budgeted a higher amount for elections in case the council decides to bond for road projects and residents successfully petition for a vote on that idea, as they did last year when they voted down the proposals to issue bonds for road projects and construction of a new city hall.

Such special elections cost money.

Council member John Terwilliger questioned the $50,000 increase for road maintenance. Council member Wayne Anderson said the city has been budgeting $75,000 for road maintenance annually but has actually been spending $125,000, thus the $50,000 increase.

Hastings said the city had already spent $66,000 on road maintenance by the end of August.

A key budget component is a proposed Portview Road West paving project that resulted from a citizens’ petition. A public hearing on that project will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28. If the project is a go, the council will have to decide whether to bond for the project or pay for it from the street improvement fund. If the project is to be done using the street improvement fund, that would be the only road project in 2020.

“We can’t ignore the others either,” Anderson said of other city roads that need improvement.

Roads on the plan for improvements next year include Pamela Drive, Wienzel Point Road and Ebert Drive.

The council also talked about ways to make city hall more secure, as well as why an irrigation system is indeed needed at the city cemetery.

“I think it’s frustrating,” council member Krista Knudsen said, noting the city probably should have increased the budget and levy a little each year to avoid big spikes that are now occurring. “Even if you cut out this much for this, you’re taking something away you probably should have, and it probably doesn’t do much good.”

The council plans to meet Wednesday, Nov. 20, and possibly in December to continue looking at the budget and levy numbers.