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Council sets preliminary 2011 budget, levy

The Hastings City Council approved a preliminary budget and tax levy for 2011 at its Tuesday meeting. The preliminary budget is set at $25,761,519.

Council members set the property tax levy at $11,264,000 - $317,000 lower than last year's levy, city administrator Dave Osberg pointed out.

The preliminary tax levy is a maximum.

"From this point on we can only go lower," said finance director Char Stark.

Also approved was a preliminary levy for the Hastings Economic Development and Redevelopment Authority. The levy was set at about $300,000, the same amount as last year.

In the coming months, city staff and council members will work to lower the 2011 budget. The final vote will be held Dec. 20.

Reducing expenses

In order to lower costs in the city, the council is allowing city staff to apply for a set of voluntary programs. One program, voluntary furlough, has been an option for staff the past two years, Osberg said. This year, the city is offering three new programs.

Voluntary separation, voluntary reduction in hours and voluntary early retirement options are being opened to city staff this week along with the voluntary furlough program.

The city hopes that voluntary programs will eliminate or reduce the need for layoffs, but there's a catch. Not everyone who applies is guaranteed approval.

The council approved the programs Tuesday with the understanding that abandoned positions would not be filled, and that reduction in hours would be long-term. Because of that, city staff would have to approve each application.

Staff have until Oct. 22 to apply. Osberg and staff have held three meetings already to discuss the options.