Ham Lake OKs preliminary budget, levy

The Ham Lake City Council Tuesday night, Sept. 4, unanimously approved the preliminary 2013 budget and tax levies.

Before the council voted, Mayor Mike Van Kirk pointed out that these are preliminary numbers and he encouraged the council committees to look over it again because he feels expenditures are up significantly.

The general fund expenditures in 2013 are projected to be $4,986,079 compared to $4,848,054 budgeted for this year. This is a $138,025 increase.

Although expenditures are up, the preliminary levy decreases by $62,415. The preliminary 2013 levy is $4,165,023 while the 2012 levy was $4,227,438.

The bulk of both levies are for the general fund, but both totals include debt service levies to pay for the improvements to Fire Station No. 1 and the public works building. The fire station got a training room and more meeting space while the public works department got a larger garage for the city’s vehicles and equipment. There were numerous other renovations as well. The 2013 debt service levy is $184,688.44.

Salary increases across the board and increases in work hours for several employees are the primary reasons for the increased budget, according to Finance Director Sharon Kutzke. Every employee will get a 2 percent increase under the proposed 2013 budget.

The building inspection department’s total budget is projected to increase from $125,605 in 2012 to $181,700 in 2013. The city now has a full-time building official instead of a part-time employee.

Kutzke said this preliminary budget also anticipates that four out of the five assistants on city staff would increase their hours from 36 hours per week to 40 hours per week. One assistant chose to remain at 36 hours. All five were previously full-time employees, but the council reduced hours starting in the 2010 budget because of the decreased work load and budget considerations. With the workload starting to increase, city staff proposed increasing their hours again.

To pay for the increased budget at the same time the levy is decreasing, the city is proposing to spend down $240,780 of its general fund balance in 2013. Assuming all other projections go according to plan, this would leave the city with a general fund balance of $2,425,329 by the end of 2013.

Spending down its fund balance has been nothing new to Ham Lake in recent years. It utilized $147,000 in 2012 and $34,490 in 2011. There was no fund balance spend-down in 2010 or 2009.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]