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City sets 2010 budget, levy

The Morris City Council approved its 2010 budget and tax levy at its meeting Tuesday.

Following a budget review, the board approved measures setting the 2010 budget at $8,481,805, and the levy for next year at $1,191,872.

The budget increased by about three-fourths of 1 percent while the levy increased 8.5 percent.

City Manager Blaine Hill said the levy increase is primarily due to Gov. Tim Pawlenty's unallotment of Local Government Aid to help balance state budgets. Unallotment has cost the city more than $500,000 since 2008.

The levy rate also has been confusing to some residents. The city, which by law must submit a preliminary levy rate in the fall. After that point, the city can lower the levy rate but can't increase it. The city set the rate at more than 22 percent, to reflect the rate local taxpayers would pay under if government aid was sliced. That rate is what showed up on cards sent to residents, causing some alarm.

One resident at Tuesday's meeting, Tony Gausman, said his city statement, based on the 22 percent figure, showed a levy increase of more than $120 over last year while his valuation remained the same. Gausman was assured -- and guaranteed by the council's vote -- that his rate would be about one-third of that printed on his statement.

The city was bracing for another round of unallotments this month since a state budget forecast last week showed the 2009 budget with a $1.2 billion deficit. However, Pawlenty notified city officials Tuesday that he would not seek aid cuts to local governments this month. He didn't say more aid cuts wouldn't be recommended in the future.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, Sal Monteagudo was introduced as the 4th-annual winner of the Morris Human Rights Award. The award is sponsored by the Morris Human Rights Commission and is presented to residents who further human rights in Morris.

Monteagudo works for the Stevens County DAC and Prairie Community Services. He is a job coach for people with developmental disabilities. He volunteers for the Morris Literacy Project, English as a Second Language and GED classes and Special Touch Ministries.

Monteagudo also is involved in other volunteer work that furthers human rights causes in Morris.

Previous Human Rights Award winners are Patty Kill, Nancy Huot and Bill Eckerson.

See more about these stories and other City Council action in the Saturday, Dec. 12 print edition of the Sun Tribune, and on this Web site.