By Craig Moorhead

The Caledonia Argus

The Caledonia City Council approved an 8% increase in their 2020 proposed levy on Monday, September 23. The preliminary levy basically puts a cap on the final (certified) levy, which must be  set before the end of the year. That can be lower, but not higher than the preliminary levy.

Last year, council members set their proposed levy 6.5% higher than the year before, then trimmed the increase to 5.5% before certifying taxes payable in 2019. An 8% bump would raise the levy to approximately $926,931, adding $68,662 more to city coffers. The total estimated 2020 city budget currently stands at $2,272,070. Local government aid is set to increase by $44,658, totaling $1,030,348 in 2020.

Even with an 8% increase, the City of Caledonia would levy for approximately $328 per resident, which is lower than most area municipalities. Fifteen southeastern Minnesota cities (from Brownsville in the east to Spring Valley in the west and St. Charles to the north) averaged $537 per capita in levy charges based on 2018 population figures and 2019 payable levies. Only St. Charles and Brownsville had lower per capita levies than Caledonia on that comparison. The most expensive levy per capita was Lanesboro, at $844.

City staff brought a proposal for increasing Caledonia’s unassigned fund balance to 50% of annual city expenses (an amount recommended by State officials). The plan would move the budgets of the Caledonia Fire Department and Caledonia EDA from the general fund to special revenue funds. Numerous other changes were also recommended, including $73,580 in budget cuts. The largest of those was postponing the purchase of a new squad car for the police department ($46,000). Eliminating new carpeting at City Hall would save about $5,000, while another $5000 would be cut from $10,000 in warming house repairs. Ending city sponsorship of 8 and under and 14 and under softball and baseball (saving an estimated $10,000 to $11,000 annually) made the list, as did other, smaller cuts. The end result would be an unassigned fund balance of 51.7% by the end of 2020, according to the report.

Other news:

Council members convened a public hearing for an interim use permit application, then voted on the matter when the regular meeting resumed. Lee and Elsie Babler asked for the permit, which would allow the couple to rent a building at 514 E. Main for lodging and rooming until it is sold. After reviewing eight criteria, the measure passed by a 4-1 vote. The IUP was given a time limit of two years, or until the building is sold, whichever comes first.

The Council also accepted two resignations with thanks to those persons for services provided to the city. Mary Betz tendered her resignation from the Caledonia Ambulance Service after more than 15 years with that organization. She joined the ambulance team in June of 2002. Part-time liquor store clerk Shannon Vickerman also submitted her resignation.

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