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Baxter council looks at 2013 budget

BAXTER — For 2013, Baxter is proposing a zero increase in the property tax levy compared to 2012.

For city council members it was a question of whether the city could keep its existing services running without an increase and how road projects may fit in or if they should be delayed another year.

“We are trying to hold our existing level of services,” said Administrator Gordon Heitke.

City council members and staff met in budget work session Tuesday night to look at preliminary numbers. A preliminary budget must be adopted before Sept. 15.

The proposed 2013 property tax levy is $5,450,000, unchanged from 2012. That accounts for an operating levy of $4,324,200, the same as the city’s 2012 level.

The city expects to generate $1.1 million in new construction revenue payable in 2013, creating about $11,000 in tax capacity, without taking commercial development into consideration which doesn’t come into play until 2013’s assessments.

In regard to spending, the city expects to replace two squad cars in 2013 for $72,000.

Budget items include $8,000 for repairs and maintenance of the Oscar Kristofferson Park kitchen and $6,500 for repairs to the pavillion, $11,700 for repairs and maintenance to the Loren Thompson rest room, a 30-year-old facility.

Money for road repair and maintenance was an important issue for council member Rob Moser.

“I still think we have some major projects to overlay,” Moser said.

Road project possibilities included Woida and Excelsior roads along with preventative maintenance like seal coating.

The council received a request of $22,575 in funding for the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp. (BLAEDC) and by consensus Tuesday agree to increase the city’s current funding by $1,000 to $18,500.

Administrator Gordon Heitke made the pitch to leave the full dollar amount in and keep the difference in an economic fund for the city, which could look at what can be done to complement BLAEDC. Heitke said he didn’t have specifics other than perhaps looking at how the industrial park land is marketed.

The Parks Commission created a list of projects it recommends in 2013 utilizing the $31,200 trail budget.

The project list includes: handicap accessibility for the trail at Loren Thompson Park and a handicap ramp in the Whipple Beach parking lot; completing a short trail segment at Grand Oaks and Firewood drives; a link to the Paul Bunyan Trail at Charles Street and Baxter drives; updating River View Park with the installation of park benches, picnic tables, garbage cans, a portable rest room and gate or entrance control.

“I think it’s great. It’s exactly what we were asking for,” said Mayor Darrel Olson of the parks commission recommendations.

Council member Todd Holman asked about the Fairview and Paul Bunyan Trail connection as a potential addition.

Holman said it’s an important link for a couple of reasons, it keeps bikes and pedestrians off Excelsior and lets them access the Excelsior trail bridge and underpass.

Council member Jim Klein questioned money budgeted for computer and software purchases and asked if that equipment was really necessary, although as a “fad” the computers “were lasting a little longer than the Hula Hoop.”

Olson pointed to the number of residents who want more technology not less such as online bill paying.

“Jim, even though it’s a fad, you’ve got one,” Heitke said of Klein’s computer.

A proposed upgrade with Microsoft Office was reported to be the city’s first in 10 years.

Council member Mark Cross was absent. The council expects to meet in a budget work session at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 4.

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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