With and other expense controls, Hopkins residents should see the 2013 city budget increase in the neighborhood of 1 percent.
Finance Director Christine Harkess estimates will save $332,887 next year compared to what the city would have had to pay if it had maintained its own dispatch center.
That savings means a budget that is 1.26 percent bigger than 2012 under the current plan—instead of the 4.42 percent it would have been without the dispatch change.
The levy—or the portion of the budget paid by local property taxes—would increase by 1.62 percent. Calculations are not yet available for how that would affect the average tax bill.
By comparison, , while the tax levy grew 1.1 percent.
This year’s budget could shrink further before the City Council approves a final budget in December. Hopkins originally planned to hire two night clerks until it upgraded to a police records management system that would work with the county dispatch system.
But the department has since found a more cost-effective system that could be online by October, saving the city $57,000 by eliminating the need for the clerks. The savings would bring the levy increase to 1.07 percent.
That may not happen. A grant that pays for a police officer salary requires the city to continue employing the officer one year after the grant expires. Hopkins may set aside some of the savings to ensure there’s money for that expense.
Still, city officials are intent on pushing the levy increase as close to 1 percent as possible.
“We can do better,” Mayor Gene Maxwell said at a Monday work session.
“I’d say see if we could cut something—just a little,” Councilwoman Kristi Halverson emphasized later.
City Manager Mike Mornson warned about the dangers of cutting too much, too swiftly—saying that it was already “impressive” the city could maintain such a modest increase at the same time it’s taking on debt for a two-year street project and five years of equipment purchases.
But the budget is far from set in stone. Staff promised to continue looking for further ways to save.
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