Seeking to keep the city’s tax rate at a specific number for residents and businesses, the Pequot Lakes City Council eliminated the city’s public works director position at an Aug. 24 special council meeting.

This will result in an $80,000 savings in wages in the 2022 budget.

Jason Gorr had served as public works director since October 2018, succeeding Mike Loven, who supervised that department for 31 years. Gorr’s last day with the city was Aug. 31.

The council at its regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 7, approved a severance agreement for Gorr, which includes 12 weeks of severance pay, pay for unused vacation and city-provided group insurance benefits during this time frame. Gorr accepted the agreement.

City Administrator Rich Spiczka is overseeing the public works department and has talked with staff about how to cover duties with three people.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Also removed from the preliminary budget after discussions Aug. 24 were: $9,000 for roads and streets miscellaneous repairs and $10,000 for roads and streets crack sealing.

The council also agreed to decrease members’ wages by $12,000 by not getting paid for special meetings and by reducing regular meeting wages by 50%.

The estimated tax rate for 2022 is 52.35%.

2022 preliminary levy

The council approved 2022 preliminary budgets and levies as follows:

  • General revenue tax levy: $1,834,765 ($7,190 increase from this year, or 0.39% higher).

  • Tax abatement levy for Pequot Lakes Supervalu: $18,960 ($880 increase from this year, or 4.87% higher). This will be the 11th of 13 years for the tax abatement levy. Before the grocery store was built, the city agreed to abate the city’s portion of taxes on the increased value of the development back to the developer from 2012-24.

  • General obligation utility revenue and disposal bond 2020A levy: $87,550. This bond was issued to fund the Rasmussen Road and South Washington Avenue project. The general obligation portion of the bond will be paid back with levy funds and the utility revenue and disposal portion of the bond will be paid back with money from the water and sewer funds.

  • HRA special levy: $47,442 ($1,195 increase from last year). That levy was raised for the first time last year after having remained the same for many years previously.

The city won’t receive preliminary tax rate information from Crow Wing County until October or November, and the final tax rate until March 2022. The city must set a preliminary general revenue tax levy by Sept. 30. The levy can be decreased, but not increased, before final adoption in December.

The council added $20,000 to the 2022 preliminary budget for capital equipment for the fire department. There are still unknown and moving parts of the budget - such as insurance and valuation - that should allow for the $20,000 addition.

In addition to eliminating the public works director position and reducing council wages, the following were removed from early budgets and levies to arrive at the preliminary numbers:

  • Administration: $1,000 for legal fees and $1,000 for travel.

  • Planning and zoning: $1,000 for legal fees and $1,050 for contracted services.

  • Police: $2,000 for conferences.

  • Roads and streets: $3,000 for signal and signs operating supplies.

The council will discuss and likely adopt the final budget and levy for 2022 at the 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 7, city council meeting, where the public can share input.

Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.