CLOQUET — The municipal council of Cloquet has approved the financial audit report for 2021 presented at a regular council meeting on Tuesday August 2.
Michelle Swoboda, a representative from WIPFLI, presented the audit to the board and shared that the city had a net position increase of $2.35 million, from $63.74 million in 2020 to $66.09. million dollars in 2021.
Swoboda said the increase came primarily from a decrease in public safety spending to $3.51 million from $6.30 million in 2020.
She explained that the change came from state policy which changed in 2021.
Other notable aspects of the audit that Swoboda shared with the board include the general fund having an increase in revenue of $497,000, with expenses being $5,000 under budget.
Swoboda noted that the city had a significant gap in its report, but that was because the auditors were preparing the city’s financial statements, which Swoboda said is common for most audits done.
City Administrator Tim Peterson said being able to control general fund spending, especially for department heads, was crucial.
“It’s pretty ridiculous, I would say,” he said. “It’s about perfect.”
Peterson said the revenue is also slightly skewed because the city got half of its federal COVID-19 funding, and he expects it to be skewed again next year with the second half of the funding.
On budgeting, General Counsel Lara Wilkinson, who was acting mayor for the evening, said it was a good start for the city.
“I think we’re all very aware of the pressures of inflation and higher property value assessments,” she said. “Knowing that we are in a really stable financial situation and that we have a good basis to work from helps us to prepare a solid budget,” she said.
Wilkinson said each councilor would have their own opinion on what the city should focus on, but the council is aware of the challenges the community faces.
“We are very aware of the type of levy we are establishing and the impacts it has on taxpayers,” she said.
Peterson said the board will see the initial draft budget at its next meeting on Aug. 16.
In other city business, council approved a conditional use permit to rezone commercially zoned property to build four new apartments.
The application, which was unanimously approved by the planning and zoning commission, came from Tony Nguyen, who currently owns nine other apartments on the property adjacent to 807 and 809 Sunnyside Dr.
After passing the motion, Wilkinson said it’s always good for the city to add more housing options.
“Given it’s in an area that has similar housing, it seemed very appropriate,” she said.
Peterson added that the city has a constant goal of adding housing and that increasing any type of housing in the city is beneficial.
“When we look at the capacity to be able to add four more units, that’s four more people who will hopefully find access to a house in Cloquet,” he said.