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Ottertail tax levy will not rise in 2011

With the economy still slumping, the Ottertail City Council has elected not to raise the tax levy collectible in 2011.

The council officially certified the measure at the Dec. 16 council meeting. After the council approved the year's budget, Elaine Hanson, Ottertail city clerk/treasurer informed the council that if the tax levy was left the same, the city would have a deficit of $153.

Originally, the city would have been looking at a deficit of $5,753 without a levy increase. However, after updating and adjusting the budget, the city was left with only a $153 deficit. Council member Terry Wagenman said that if Hanson thinks the city can live with it, his suggestion would be that they don't increase the levy.

The rest of the council concurred with Wagenman.

"With the economy the way it is, I think it's best for the constituents to keep the increase as low as possible," council member Heather Rosenthal said.

The council did approve a 1 percent salary increase for Ottertail city staff members. This salary adjustment is a cost of living increase only.

Also on the agenda at the council's Dec. 16 meeting was discussion regarding the League of Minnesota Cities, Minnesota Basic Code.

"It's basically a comprehensive book with ordinances that are all organized and indexed," Hanson said. "The planning committee has recommended going with a customized code."

The customized code option would cost the city $4,500, compared to $2,380 for the basic code and Title 17. The planning committee's consensus after reviewing the code for the past three months was that the basic code would not best fit the specific needs of the city of Ottertail. In order to purchase the customized code, the city will need to pay 10 percent down.

Council member Don Patrick, who is also a member of the planning committee, said he was impressed by what he read about the customized code and personally thought it would be the best option for the city.

"Most of the communities around here have already subscribed to it, which is kind of a vote of confidence," Patrick said.

One of the greatest benefits with purchasing the customized code option is that in addition to five copies of the code in three ring binders, the city of Ottertail will also get a digital version of the ordinances. This would make it easier for city staff to look up the answers to specific ordinance-related questions people may have. It also allows all regulations to be in one place.

"I think we should go for it," Wagenman said, an assessment echoed by the rest of the council members as they passed a motion to adopt the customized code.

In the coming months, Ottertail's city attorney will sit down with the planning committee and go over the ordinances to make sure they are exactly what the city will need. Hanson estimated that this process will take about six months.

Also at the Dec. 16 meeting, Hanson officially swore in newly elected Ottertail City Council member Mike Windey, returning council member Wagenman, and former city council member and new mayor Myron Lueders. Their terms officially begin on Jan. 3, 2011.

Hanson informed the council that she is considering submitting an application to serve as Region I assistant vice president with the Minnesota Clerks and Finance Officers Association Executive Board.

"It won't interfere with my job here, because most of my meetings are on Fridays," she explained, asking the council for its support for her to go ahead and take part in this learning position.

"It's nice to see us contributing to the overall value of the state. It reflects well on the whole community," Patrick said of Hanson's desire to serve in this capacity. The council approved a motion voicing its support for Hanson in this matter.