CLOQUET — Cloquet City Council approved the financial audit report for the year 2021 presented during the council’s regular session on Tuesday, August 2.
WIPFLI representative Michelle Swoboda presented the audit to the council and shared that the city had a net increase in position of $2.35 million from $63.74 million in 2020 to $66.09 million dollars in 2021.
Swoboda said that increase comes primarily from a decrease in public safety spending of $3.51 million, compared to $6.30 million in 2020.
He explained that the change stems from state policy that changed in 2021.
Some other notable aspects of the audit that Swoboda shared with the board included that the general fund had an increase in revenue by $497,000, with expenses $5,000 below budget.
Swoboda noted that the city had a significant deficiency in its report, but that was because the auditors were preparing the city’s finances, which Swoboda said is common with most audits conducted.
City Manager Tim Peterson said being able to control spending in the general fund, especially for department heads, is crucial.
“That’s pretty ridiculous, I’d say,” he said. “That’s pretty much done.”
Peterson said revenue is also slightly skewed since 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 funding.
As for the budget, Alderman Lara Wilkinson, who was acting mayor for the night, said this is a positive start for the city.
“I think we’re all very aware of the pressures of inflation and higher property assessments,” he said. “Knowing that we’re in a really stable financial situation and that we have a good foundation to work from helps us put together a solid budget,” he said.
Wilkinson said each councilor would have their own views on what the city should focus on, but the council is aware of the challenges facing the community.
“We are very conscious of what kind of tax we are establishing and what impacts it has on taxpayers,” he said.
Peterson said the council will be able to see the initial draft of the budget at its next meeting on Aug. 16.
In other city business, the council approved a conditional use permit to rezone a commercially zoned property to build four new apartments.
The request, which was unanimously approved by the planning and zoning commission, comes from Tony Nguyen, who currently owns nine other apartments on the adjacent property at 807 and 809 Sunnyside Dr.
After the motion passed, Wilkinson said it’s always good for the city to add more housing opportunities.
“Given that it’s in an area that has similar housing, it seemed like a good fit,” he said.
Peterson added that the city has an ongoing goal of adding housing and increasing any type of housing in the city is beneficial.
“When we look at the ability to be able to add four additional units, that’s four more people that we hope will be able to access housing in Cloquet,” he said.