Bemidji City Council looking to lower budgeted operating deficit of Sanford Center

The Bemidji City Council may be looking at a 5 percent levy increase for next year.

No formal action was taken at the Monday work session.

Initial presentations indicated a possible 3.7 or 4 percent net levy increase.

The council seemed in consensus to lower the budgeted Sanford Center operating deficit.

The city has levied up to $450,000 for that deficit in prior years, but this year will look at reducing it to at least half of that.

From the “savings” of that, possible uses include an additional Paul Bunyan Drug Task Force officer or a full year of an assistant city manager. City Finance Director Ron Eischens recommended deferring the hire of an assistant city manager until July of 2023.

Many other possible uses of those dollars include unfunded park improvements, with Parks Director Marcia Larson highlighting an extensive list of overdue projects in parks across the city.

City Engineer Craig Gray said inflation especially hits his department with the costs of materials to repair streets, and Fire Chief Justin Sherwood noted that he could use additional firefighting staff.

The city council is anticipated to set the preliminary budget and levy in a regular meeting in September, then set the final levy in December.

After the September meeting, the levy can be lowered, but cannot be raised in December.

Larissa Donovan is the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting and has been, almost without interruption, since Election Day 2016. She covers all the beats in north-central Minnesota, such as local government, crime, education, environment and social issues. She studied communications at Bemidji State University. You can follow along with Larissa's live tweets of meetings and events on Twitter!

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