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Slight tax levy increase proposed in Superior's 2023 budgets

Mayor Jim Paine says he's hopeful the $115,226 proposed tax levy increase will be absorbed by growth in the city.

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Superior Mayor Jim Paine speaks at a press conference at the Government Center Thursday, April 16, 2020.
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — Inflation is taking a toll on the city of Superior’s budgets for 2023.

The nearly $33.7 million revenue and spending plan calls for nearly $1.4 million more in spending next year than was budgeted in 2022. Higher wages, health care costs, and rising fuel and energy costs all account for the increase in spending projected for next year.

However, the tax levy, which accounts for 41% of all city revenue, would increase by only $115,226 in 2023 under the mayor's plan.

“While the amount we’re collecting is going up, that looks like it’s within the growth in the city’s value, so I’m hopeful that it won’t even raise the taxes of any given taxpayer, because there’s more folks paying taxes,” said Mayor Jim Paine, who made his budget proposal public Thursday, Sept. 22.

Paine plans to present the proposed 2023 general fund and capital improvement budgets to the city council Oct. 4. Councilors will then have three meetings to consider the proposal before final adopting its final budget by Nov. 14.

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The public will have a chance to weigh in on the plan Oct. 18. The plan will be available at ci.superior.wi.us .

"This has been the most challenging, exhausting, and exciting budget I have ever worked on at the city,” Paine told councilors Tuesday, Sept. 20. “You could lump in budgets I was involved in at Douglas County, as well. This one takes the cake for all of them. It's been a crazy experience, but I'm going to go ahead and say it right now: I think it's the most consequential and important budget that I have ever passed. We are taking major steps forward in securing the financial health of the city and providing significant financial opportunity to the city and the public in the years to come. I'm extraordinarily proud of this document."

Among the things Paine said he is proudest of is the city’s debt going down and that the plan for capital improvements over the next six years doesn’t include any new borrowing through 2028.

“There is no new bonding projected over the life of the plan; that’s the first time that’s ever happened,” Paine said. “We’re spending less for debt for the third consecutive year … it’s putting the city in the strongest position it’s been in, possibly in decades.”

Among the factors helping with the budget next year are stability in the oil pipeline terminal tax the city receives and investments the city has made in recent years.

“We’ve made substantial investments in the city’s fiscal health and infrastructure over the last several years, so we weren’t behind on anything,” Paine said. “… We’ve been investing in streets and sidewalks and parks and all of the city’s assets, including public safety, for years now so we could focus on what we needed to do.”

He said even when the city’s health insurance fund took a hit this year with higher-than-expected claims, the fund was healthy and able to absorb the blow. Even if claims come in higher than the 10% increase budgeted for next year, he said the fund, which is self-funded, should remain healthy.

The mayor also said he budgeted for a 5% increase in employee wages for 2023. However, he said that doesn’t mean employees will see a 5% increase in pay in 2023. The city is currently undergoing a study of market rate wages, which is expected to be complete in several weeks, according to Cammi Janigo, human resources director.

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The city’s human resources committee will decide what wages look like next year once that study is complete, Paine said.

Paine said the 2023 budget will allow the city to continue investing in services like public safety by capturing the city’s growth.

“We’re bringing them more services and we’re not charging them more in taxes,” Paine said.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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