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Brainerd City Council: Brainerd residents to pay more - 2015 levy, budget approved

Brainerd residents will pay more on their taxes next year. At the Brainerd City Council meeting Monday, the group approved the 2015 levy at $4,898,835, with $116,550 for the Housing and Redevelopment Authority. That's about a 10 percent increase ...

Brainerd residents will pay more on their taxes next year.

At the Brainerd City Council meeting Monday, the group approved the 2015 levy at $4,898,835, with $116,550 for the Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

That's about a 10 percent increase over last year.

The council also adopted the 2015 budget.

Voting against both motions were city council members Mary Koep and Gary Scheeler.

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The Brainerd City Council has met in several special budget workshops since July to both cut expenditures and to look for ways to increase revenues.

Koep said the 2015 budget is still "too much," noting she would support passing the budget if the levy was lowered by two percentage points.

Scheeler agreed that it should be lowered a couple of points.

Koep suggested the council remove another $4,500 from the fireworks fund and another $6,000 from the Economic Development Authority fund.

City council member Kelly Bevans said time is running out to certify the levy, and while the one before the council isn't his first choice, he's supporting it.

"We've had lots of opportunities to cut the budget since July," he said. "Somewhere along the line we have to approve it."

Mayor James Wallin urged the council to approve the budget and watch it closely as the year begins.

City council members Chip Borkenhagen and Dave Pritschet said the budget was not frivolous at all.

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One resident spoke at a public hearing last week on the budget. He questioned why there was such a steep increase and asked if it's part of a future trend.

In the recently approved budget, there's about $90,000 that is not designated for a specific item or fund.

City staff recommended using $50,000 for future retirement benefits and the rest for capital projects. That recommendation can change as the year moves forward.

There is currently $100,000 in the budget to start projects like heating, ventilation and air conditioning upgrades at city hall and the police and fire stations, a salt and sand storage building for the Public Works Facility, emergency preparedness upgrades at the Public Safety Facility, and for the repair and renovation of the entry stairs at City Hall.

Those improvement projects were halted when the voters at the November election turned down a question, asking for the city to issue $1.079 million in capital improvement bonds for the work.

JESSIE PERRINE may be reached at jessie.perrine@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brainerdnews .

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