The City of Wabasha’s City Council set the preliminary levy at 7.1% increase at their September meeting. The preliminary levy is set at $2,571,912, representing a $171,322 increase since last year. When the final levy is adopted in December, it can be reduced but not increased. The preliminary numbers are used for property owner valuation notices.
The 7.1% increase does not directly equate to the same increase for individual tax bills, as other factors such as tax capacity, market value of the property also impact the taxes paid. Finance Director Tyler Grabau estimated that for a homeowner with a home assessed value of $200,000, their yearly tax increase is $250 with the proposed increase.
- The 7.1% property tax increase is needed to mostly maintain the status quo.
According to City Administrator Caroline Gregerson who presented the budget, the majority of the operating costs increases in the City’s budget represent city operations as usual. Costs are mainly due to wage increases and health care costs increases, IT costs, maintenance or replacement of equipment. Just over half of the City’s operating budget pays for police (29%) and public works (22%). The two largest departments’ budgets are mostly staff wages and benefits. Gregerson stated that the only way to cut tax increases involves cutting positions and services in its departments.
- The City retired debt and undertook new debt for downtown streets and the athletic field
This year, there was about $130,000 in net savings due to debt that was retired from prior street projects and replaced with new debt for the downtown street project and the new athletic field. The athletic field will be paid for not only through the city bonds but also with a grant and donations. The downtown reconstruction project is mainly funded through water and sewer fees but also with assessment and property taxes.
- The budget invests $225,000 in capital improvement fund
The City of Wabasha continues to save and invest in capital improvements for the City. In this year’s budget, the city is setting aside funding to fix broken pool skimmers ($95,000), fix streets ($200,000), expand the fire station to allow for additional storage ($425,000). They are using a combination of savings, property tax dollars, and grants to pay for the improvements.
- New positions for the Wabasha Ambulance Service
The budget proposed adding one full-time paramedic and one part-time paramedic to the Wabasha Ambulance Service in 2024. This is part of a strategy to provide advanced life support coverage for their service area and the citizens and visitors that they serve. This would mean a total of four full-time staff, three part-time staff, and 17 volunteers (paid on-call). Over time, the Wabasha Ambulance Service has needed to add paid staff, as its harder to only depend on volunteers to provide EMS coverage. Across the state, volunteer-only services are being forced to shut their doors. Ryan Marking, Ambulance Director, explained to Council that the additional positions could pay for themselves after an up-front investment in future revenues for interfacility transfers. Marking anticipated being able to better forecast revenues for next year as they get a better sense of how becoming an ALS service will positively impact revenues.
- City revenues from aid and fees increases by 11%.
To keep property taxes down due to increased operating expenses, City Council voted to approved increasing fees for campgrounds, marinas, and licenses The City also benefited this year from additional local government aid from the State of Minnesota. Overall, the budget plans for an 11% increase in revenues in 2024.
- Demand for city services up in 2023
Overall, Gregerson reported that demand for city services was up in 2023, with overall police call volume and ambulance call volume up since 2022. The flood also meant extra work and clean up for public works and the emergency services department. The use of the library and its programs also increased since the prior year, with 20,137 visits to the library. According to Gregerson, the utilization of city services demonstrates the importance of continuing to fund these services.
The 2024 proposed budget is now published on the City’s website! Click here to learn more: 2024 Budget
Budget Presentation click here.
Too see all budgets posted go to our Budget webpage, here.