City is taking hard look at assessments; might increase property owner’s share to 60%
By Lynda Jensen
DASSEL, MN Tight financial times are causing the City of Dassel to take a closer look at its special assessment policy, which currently stands at 40 percent of project amounts being assessed to the property owner, for such things as street or utility improvements.
This could change with the percent of financial responsibility potentially being increased to as much as 60 percent according to discussion at the last Monday’s city council meeting.
The subject cropped up during conversation about the poor condition of sidewalks in town, and how to address them.
It was noted that Dassel doesn’t have an all-inclusive policy on special assessments, and that some type of schedule that would address sidewalks could be drafted, along with other improvements.
When it comes to street maintenance or sidewalks, many area cities don’t charge special assessments.
Cokato doesn’t charge special assessments, noted Cokato Administrator Don Levens. “Everybody pays the bill,” he said.
The City of Cokato didn’t assess anyone for recent Broadway and Highway 12 work.
Levens noted that there was a special assessment done for new utilities that were extended for the Trailstone development in Cokato from Seventh Street, but that this was a separate arrangement that didn’t pertain to maintenance of a road or street. “That’s very different,” he explained.
Litchfield Administrator Bruce Miller indicated that his city assesses about 25 percent back to the property owner for some street work. Specifically, streets that pertain to state aid are assessed 25 percent to the property owner.
“We have not done streets recently where there was no state money,” Miller said. “But in the last 15 or 20 years, we’ve done mostly state aid streets that’s 25 percent, with the state kicking in quite a bit.”
Howard Lake does not make special assessments, confirmed Clerk Gene Gilbert. “We don’t assess,” she said. Howard Lake hasn’t assessed for the last three to four projects, she said.
Annandale breaks out its special assessments into different categories, City Administrator Mark Casey said.
In Annandale, anything to do with water and sewer is assessed 30 percent, and streets, 35 percent, Casey said. Sidewalks are assessed at 50 percent. Storm water upgrades are 100 percent paid for by the city, he noted.
Waverly does not make special assessments, according to Clerk Deb Ryks.
Delano currently doesn’t assess, but this is expected to change soon; with a 50-50 percent ratio being proposed, commented Brian Bloch of Delano’s financial office. There are public hearings underway to discuss this issue, he said.
Dassel Administrator Myles McGrath noted that many cities may revisit their special assessment policies due to the budget crunch and economy.
During last Monday’s meeting, McGrath indicated that his research showed cities “all over the board,” when it comes to special assessments.
McGrath checked with the research department at the League of Minnesota Cities. “They were able to provide me with more of a statewide cross section as to policy and the range of rates that cities adopt,” he said.
Engineer Chuck DeWolf was asked during the meeting what the usual ratio is, and he said “40 percent, or 50 percent, maybe,” was considered average.
“If you set it too high, it opens the door to more challenges,” DeWolf said, saying that the city must prove the benefit to property.
A public hearing is expected to be set in the near future to review the city’s assessment policy. Meanwhile, a work session has been set for 6 p.m. Monday, May 3, before the regular meeting.
Work session set for 6 p.m. Mon., May 3
The City of Dassel will be having a work session to discuss the special assessment policy 6 p.m. Monday, May 3, just before its regular city council meeting.
In addition, the city plans to ask about sidewalks in a citizen survey, due out in May. For those who wish to respond to the survey, watch for it in the May city newsletter.