Despite protest, Forest Lake City Council lays off patrol officer
For the second time in as many budget cycles, the Forest Lake City Council voted to lay off an employee as it set its final budget for the coming year. This time, the council voted to remove $90,000 from the preliminary 2016 budget of the Forest Lake Police Department and spend it in other areas, leading to the layoff of patrol officer Max Boukal, who has worked for the city for more than two years.
The Dec. 7 vote, which keeps the city’s general fund budget and levy at their preliminary levels of $9.14 million and $8.96 million, respectively, was 3-1 in favor, with Mayor Stev Stegner and Councilmen Ben Winnick and Ed Eigner casting the deciding votes; city residential property taxes are expected to rise about 1.5 percent for the average Forest Lake taxpayer under the levy. Councilman Richard Weber voted against the move, and Councilman Michael Freer, who had voiced support throughout the budget process for keeping the officer level intact for 2016, had an engagement that kept him from attending.
The actual decision came during the city’s regular meeting, which started at 9:40 p.m. after a two-hour special budget meeting attended by at least 100 people – most of them city residents or members of the Police Department. During that time, a bevy of speakers voiced support for keeping the officer position and for Boukal’s job performance.