The St. Cloud City Council on Thursday night approved a $178.9 million budget for 2020-21, maintaining the existing 5.1128 millage rate.

The millage rate, which is the amount of tax per $1,000 of taxable value, has been the same since the 2016-17 budget year. The total budget represents just a one percent increase from the current year’s budget across all city funds.

“It was the city manager’s guidance and mission that we would stay as neutral as we could to the previous year,” said Finance Director Wendy Collazo. “It is my privilege to report we increased the budget by a whopping one percent.”

Total general fund expenditures are $1.9 million higher than the FY 2020 budget, a four percent increase. The 2020-21 general fund budgeted expenditures exceed revenues by $3.2 million. This initial shortfall is primarily due to an overall 25 percent decrease to shared revenues due to the global pandemic; pension contributions increasing nine percent, two percent of which comes from the City, and 11 new positions.

Of those 11 positions, nine are in the general fund, and two are in the building fund. The 11 includes four police officers with the award of a COPS grant.

The capital fund was reduced by 88%, from $7.9 million to $4.3 million.

“We took a conservative approach this year,” Collazo said. “The state legislature is reporting a continued downfall in shared revenues. The coronavirus outbreak is sudden, sharp and hopefully short. We reviewed everything on a need basis versus a want basis. We kept a conservative approach and fiscal responsibility at the forefront.”

Capital expenditures will include:

·      $249,600: General Government Projects
·      $1.6 million: Public Safety Project
·      $957,500: Parks & Rec Projects 
·      $1.4 million: Transportation Projects 

The budget does not include cost of living increases for city staff. In voting 5-0 to approve the budget, the Council expressed their hope that staff would be given increases once the pandemic is past.

“I definitely hope we’re looking at giving staff increases next year as we roll out of COVID,” Councilman Keith Trace commented.