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Lake Shore: 2016 preliminary levy is slightly higher than 2015

The Lake Shore City Council on Monday, Sept. 28, approved a preliminary levy of $790,619, which is a slight increase from 2015. The preliminary 2016 budget totals $856,626.

The Lake Shore City Council on Monday, Sept. 28, approved a preliminary levy of $790,619, which is a slight increase from 2015. The preliminary 2016 budget totals $856,626.

The proposed budget includes a step increase and a 3 percent cost of living increase for eligible employees. During the meeting, the council agreed to revise the 2015 pay scale it adopted in August to allow for a step increase for Teri Hastings, longtime city administrator/planning and zoning administrator.

All full-time staff were at the top step in their salary range on the pay scale, so the council added five step increases to each category to remain competitive and retain employees. Mayor John Poston said Hastings' salary was uncompetitive and needed to be adjusted.

"It's a position that needs equity in relationship to peers in other communities," said council member Earl North, noting some cities don't have a combined city administrator/planning and zoning administrator. "In all comparisons, Teri wears many more hats and has more tenure than her counterparts."

The capital outlay portion of the budget includes $50,000 for sewer equipment for sewer projects. The council learned this summer that major sewer lift station improvements are needed, and a lift station inventory and maintenance plan completed by city engineer Widseth Smith Nolting (WSN) outlines sewer improvements beginning in 2016.

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Later in the meeting, the council agreed to hire WSN for professional services regarding improvements to sewer lift stations at County State Aid Highway 78 and Bar Harbor. Hastings also suggested the council transfer and use funds from the public improvement account to pay for the projects. That account currently has $308,630.

The council has discussed possible sewer rate increases to help pay for improvements. The council will hold a public hearing during the October council meeting regarding a proposal to increase rates $25 per quarter per equivalent residential connection (ERC). That would be about $100 more per year per household.

The additional money collected would be placed into a capital improvement fund for wastewater improvements.

The council can lower, but not raise, the preliminary levy when it adopts the final budget and levy at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 21. The council plans to hold its regular monthly meeting on that date as well, which is a week earlier than normal.

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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