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City plans no tax increase for 2012

MORRIS, Minn. At a budget work session on Thursday, Morris City Manager Blaine Hill presented the City Council with a revised city budget that would not increase the city's tax levy for 2012.

The decision was made, Hill said, because of the Market Value Homestead Credit issue. Because of a state change in the way property taxes are reimbursed and calculated, many believe that local taxes will be increasing this year, regardless of what decisions local taxing authorities make.

"I think the best things we can do is freeze our levy, then any change that takes place in somebody's taxes for the city is going to be based upon something that we're not responsible for," said Hill. "I think we can do it just because of the nature of how we've been budgeting over the last couple years."

The city's preliminary budget, passed in September, included a preliminary tax levy of about $1.3 million, a 7.6 percent increase from 2011. The new proposed budget has a tax levy of about $1.2 million. Hill said he was able to reduce the general fund tax levy by transferring money from the liquor store reserves to make a final payment on a new fire truck.

City department heads were also at the work session to answer questions from the council about their individual budgets. The ongoing theme from their presentations was that there won't be any major changes from 2011 to 2012.

"We do what we can with what we have," said Library Director Melissa Yauk. However, Yauk added that staff numbers were tight and the library building is falling apart.

Morris Police Chief Jim Beauregard said the police department budget would likely be reduced within the next couple of years, after the city's dispatch contract with Stevens County is revised and after a final payment is made on the new electronic records system.

The final levy and budget are set to be approved at the council's first regular meeting in December.