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Duluth adopts $42.6M budget

DULUTH - The Duluth Council unanimously adopted a $42.6 million FY 2010 budget Monday that residents helped prepare. The amount is $3.1 million less than the city's FY 2009 budget.

The new budget, which goes into effect July 1, was achieved through a collaborative effort that involved city leaders, department heads, employees and residents. It is based on a tax millage rate of 5.191 mills, the same rate the city has maintained for the past eight or nine years.

Mayor Nancy Harris and Councilman Doug Mundrick commended the 40-member Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, which provided input on generating additional funds that helped the city offset a revenue shortfall and avoid a millage rate increase. The council is expected to set the tax rate in July.

"The citizens committee did an excellent job," Mundrick said. The FY 2010 budget incorporates increases in user fees for city services and facilities suggested by the committee.

Involving residents was an innovative approach to solving the city's budget woes.

"Other cities have been contacting us and asking us if we were crazy," Mayor Harris said. "We were confident that if we got our citizens involved, we would get good input."

The FY 2010 budget also reflects significant cuts by city department heads, no raises for employees and a hiring freeze.

The city will again sponsor its "Duluth Celebrates America" music and fireworks salute on July 3 at Scott Hudgens Park. Although eliminating the celebration was considered during budget discussions, the council decided to continue the tradition. "Duluth is a patriotic city," Mundrick said.

Mundrick cautioned, however, that compiling the budget for FY 2011 may be even more difficult. The council will probably have to consider reducing city services and possibly raising the millage rate, he said.

In other action at the meeting, the council approved modifying a special-use permit to allow Wellspring Living to construct an addition to the rear of the facility at 3089 Duluth Highway. Wellspring Living is a personal care home that serves young women who have been abused.