By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN After months of discussion, changes, and public comment, the Delano City Council approved an assessment policy at Tuesday night’s meeting.
The proposed policy was tabled twice in November and revisions to the original proposal had been presented to the city council at a work session in September, and again at a regular meeting in October.
The purpose of the policy is to establish a fair and equitable manner of assessing the increase in market value (special benefit) associated with public improvements.
The topic of most conversation surrounding the issue has revolved around street and infrastructure repairs and improvements.
“The street reconstruction is just a component of the policy,” City Administrator Phil Kern said. The policy also sets forth guidelines for assessments for other public improvements, including sidewalks and trails, storm sewer, sanitary sewer, watermains, dikes and flood control works, parks, and street lights and boulevard trees, among other things.
It also solidifies a policy the city can use to assess things back to property owners, such as mowing weeds and unkept yards, which is has been doing already for a number of years.
In the policy approved by the city council, the cost share allocation between assessed properties is 30 percent assessment/70 percent property tax for residential properties, and 50 percent assessment/50 percent property tax share for commercial properties. These numbers maintain the level of assessments that allow for a state requirement of 20 percent to use a special assessment policy.
Assessed properties have two choices for payment under the approved policy.
The first choice is to pay the assessment in full during the year it was levied, and the second choice is to have the assessment filed against the property and collected over a period of up to 15 years.
A guarantee period is also provided in the policy, which states a property owner would have a 30-year “no assessment” guarantee after being assessed for a street reconstruction project.
The council has also reviewed tax rate information for the implementation of such a policy, and feels this to be the fairest option.
“I believe it to be a very comprehensive policy,” Mayor Joe McDonald said, adding it is a “good tool to have in the toolbox.”
He said this is just a funding mechanism that is now in place, and it is up to future city councils to decide what to do with it. Council Member Larry Bartels noted this policy does not approve any specific projects, and each project would have appropriate public hearings and follow the process in place.
Council Member Betsy Stolfa acknowledged all the people who gave time and feedback on the issue.