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Ness: More Money for Street Repairs, Public Safety in 2015

Updated: 09/04/2014 11:02 PM
Created: 09/04/2014 8:05 PM WDIO.com
By: Emily Haavik
ehaavik@wdio.com

Duluth Mayor Don Ness presented his proposed budget for 2015 on Thursday, and it includes more money for public safety and street repairs.

Ness proposed a 1.6-percent property tax increase, which is equivalent to about $9 per year for the owner of a $155,600 home. Ness said the extra funding will go toward two things: street improvements and public safety.

The public safety increase is largely due to new state requirements. As for the street repairs, Ness said the goal is to be prepared for anything.

"After a winter like we've had, it's taken us a long time even with an enhanced program to fill all those potholes," he said. "We have no idea what this winter will bring, but we want to make sure we have dollars available in order to do those enhanced maintenance activities, should the need arise."

Ness said other than those two increases, 2015 looks basically the same as 2014—and he said that's a good thing.

"The important thing that we're looking at here is the value of the stability that we've been able to achieve over last five years," he said. "Going back to 2008 and 2009, we faced multimillion-dollar deficits year after year after year, and it created uncertainty."

Ness reminded the Duluth City Council of that uncertainty on Thursday night. He called on them to keep it from happening again.

"It is in public life a tenuous hold," he said. "We can lose it quickly and return to deficit governing, and I think we are all stakeholders in making sure that does not happen."

Ness said the fewer surprises there are in the budget, the more Duluth can focus on what's important.

"Our focus shouldn't be on budgets," he said. "We should hopefully be able to just take for granted that the city is in good fiscal health so that we can focus our energies on growing jobs and creating value in our community."

Duluth residents may remember that there was no property tax increase in 2013. The mayor's policy director, Daniel Fanning, said Local Government Aid offset the cost of inflation that year. He said compared to other cities in Minnesota, Duluth's proposed increase for next year is low.

The City Council will have a chance to vote on the budget on Sept. 22.

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