Duluth proposed budget smaller, but no staff or service cuts

Duluth Mayor Don Ness
Duluth Mayor Don Ness photographed in this file photo taken Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul. Ness presents his proposed 2013 budget to the city council Monday evening.
MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson

In another sign of Duluth's ongoing fiscal turnaround, Mayor Don Ness presented a budget for next year that preserves city services while calling for the smallest increase in the property tax levy in more than a decade.

Ness' proposed 2013 budget of $73.7 million is $1 million less than the 2012 budget, and represents the fifth consecutive year of decreases in general fund expenditures. But Ness said this budget reverses a trend of service cuts.

"Previously in the city of Duluth, we'd face massive budget deficits of anywhere from $5 to $7 million every single year," Ness said. "And we've kind of gotten out of that roller coaster."

Ness proposes a property tax levy increase of 1.6 percent. That's the lowest recommended levy increase in Duluth since 2000. He said the city can make additional cuts without reducing city services or laying off staff. He said the city saves money through energy efficiency, attrition and reforms to its employee health care plan.

"We're kind of at that point where we can handle some difficult issues without it translating into a major impact, or burden on the residents and taxpayers in this area," Ness said.

Last year the city's budget included $1.5 million in cuts and a 3 percent levy increase.

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