FAIRMONT - Parks, fire trucks and citywide cleanup were among the items Fairmont City Council discussed Monday in a work session on the 2013 budget.
The council is looking at a 3 percent property tax levy increase, from $3.12 million in 2012 to a proposed $3.214 million. The council must approve a preliminary levy increase in September, and the finalized budget and levy in December.
Based on the proposed budget presented Monday, the city's levy is set to increase $93,620, but city staff are looking at other options besides property taxes to increase revenue and implement some of the council's goals.
Citywide cleanups are something the council has wanted to offer, but the operation costs about $75,000. Fairmont could start offering an annual cleanup by adding a $1.25 fee to residents' monthly utility bills, according to city administrator Mike Humpal. The fee could also help pay for managing the tree dump and other similar projects.
With this plan, it would be feasible for the city to have a cleanup next summer, but finance director Paul Hoye wasn't sure the logistics could be worked out on such short notice. The council will have to decide in the near future if they want to push for a cleanup in 2013.
Parks are another high priority for the council. Among the improvements the council discussed were:
o Replacing the sand filters at the aquatic park and roof on the concession stand, plus painting and adding new play features for children, lawn chairs and shade umbrellas. The cost for the upgrades is about $70,000, which city staff has included in the capital expenditures for 2013.
o Purchasing bleachers and scoreboards for the Winnebago Avenue sports complex. The council discussed seeking corporate sponsors and advertisers for the outfield fencing, and selling naming rights to help offset the costs. Charging the school and other groups for using the park for ball games was another option the council directed staff to look into.
o Adding a dog park, potentially southeast of the aquatic park. City staff is investigating other communities' dog parks and the associated costs. Humpal said the most expensive part of the project would likely be fencing, but the old fence from the former Budd School could be an option.
The 2013 budget has $25,000 set aside for parks and recreation capital expenses.
In the past, the city has not set money aside for upcoming expenses, but the council was presented with a schedule to help better budget big-ticket items.
"We own a lot of property," Humpal said, so he suggested saving over time rather than trying to come up with money as expenses arise makes sense.
"Firetrucks are the largest, most expensive piece of equipment the city needs to replace," Hoye said.
The city plans to continue talks with surrounding townships about pitching in on the equipment, including a $440,000 rescue truck; a $500,000 E6 truck; and a ladder truck for $1 million. The purchase date for the latter emergency vehicle is not until 2029, but the schedule allows the city and townships to develop long-term payment plans.
The trucks have poor trade-in value, since insurance increases and warranties drop as they age. There might be another way to offset the expense, though. Councilman Joe Kallemeyn suggested charging for in-town fire calls, especially since most homeowners have insurance to cover the cost. The council is going to explore this option further.
The council meets next at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 27 at City Hall.