Mayor Emily Larson presents 2024 budget to City Council

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Mayor Emily Larson presented her 2024 budget proposal to Duluth City Council on Monday evening.  Mayor Larson described the budget as a “good news story.”

“This proposal prioritizes the needs of the community. We are investing in streets. We are investing in public safety. We are investing in our people,” said Mayor Larson. “This budget keeps property taxes affordable. The vast majority of property taxpayers will actually see their taxes down next year. And this positions us to take long-term challenges.”

The budget proposal is possible due in part to increased state local government aid (LGA), which accounts for 32% of Duluth’s total revenue. 

Last year, Duluth received only slightly more LGA than in 2002. With stagnant state aid and rising costs, pressure was put on Duluth property taxpayers.

“For two decades, Duluth struggled to provide core services like streets, parks, and public safety like we want to and are expected to, and it meant delays in replacing capital equipment, deferred maintenance for City buildings, and taking care of the people who work for the City who have had to take on more work without more resources,” said Mayor Larson.

This year, Duluth secured nearly $4.4 million in additional state LGA, the largest increase in more than 20 years.  

“The additional money in LGA, along with the years of sound financial management before and coming out of the pandemic, has put the city in a tremendously strong position this year to make some important and critical investments,” Mayor Larson stated.

The additional LGA is coupled with one-time investments from the city’s reserves as well as remaining American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for a budget that is aimed at correcting decades-old legacy issues. 

“The challenges we face didn’t happen overnight, or in the last seven years,” Larson said,

“they’ve been 20 years in the making, and while this budget by itself can’t eliminate the

all financial pressures we’re under, it’s a big, important next step, of many more to

come, toward gaining ground on decades of disinvestment and positioning ourselves

best for the future.”

The proposed 2024 budget includes:

  • A low 2% levy increase. This under-inflation, low levy responds to community concerns over higher taxes and is necessary to meet our basic operations. The average taxpayer will be paying fewer City property taxes next year compared to this year.
  • Major investment in street repair. Larson’s budget proposes a record $14 million next year for street repair, which will continue moving Duluth on a path toward a sustainable street repair cycle. The city expects to repair 18.4 miles of City streets next year, and 50 miles in the next 3 years.
  • Replacing capital equipment. The 2024 budget proposes one-time investments to secure new equipment well past their life cycle and makes an important jump forward in catching up on 20 years of deferred maintenance and investment in the equipment staff need to serve our community. 
  • Filling critical staffing gaps. Larson’s budget strategically funds critical positions where failure to invest will hold back progress on other issues like infrastructure, housing, parks, public safety, and climate action. For example: A new grants accountant in the Finance Department will allow the city to continue their success securing hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal grants. The City has exceeded its capacity to report, monitor, and account for these grants with existing staff. An additional housing inspector will help tackle the huge backlog coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and is critical to speeding up inspections necessary to accelerate new housing in Duluth. A parks and libraries assistant to help support these outward facing, high impact service areas.
  • Investing in staff. Larson proposes a one-time staff payment recognizing City workers’ essential contributions, along with investing in the equipment they need to do their jobs.
  • Prioritizing Downtown Safety. Larson’s budget invests more in parking ramp security and safety; this is the first part of a two-part proposed investment in this, with the second to be proposed through tourism tax.