BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN The average property taxpayer in Delano will see their city property taxes increase by .72 percent if the city’s preliminary tax levy becomes final.
The Delano City Council approved the preliminary levy of $3,099,254 during a special meeting Tuesday.
Finance Director Brian Bloch explained how the preliminary levy would affect the average property taxpayer if finalized.
“The average homeowner will see about a 3.5 percent increase for their home value, just because of inflation, no improvements or anything like that,” Bloch said. “ . . . That results in their taxes, the city portion anyway, going up less than 1 percent.”
Had the city’s tax base not grown, it would cost a property owner with a $250,000 home about $50 a year, or $1 per week. However, the growth of the city’s tax base decreases that estimate to about $10 per year.
One reason for the increase is a rise in personnel costs, with two employees moving to full time and receiving benefits, one in now and one in May 2017.
Bloch said one way to lessen the levy increase would be to transfer reserve funds, but he said, “All that does is push the problem down the road.”
Mayor Dale Graunke suggested approving the preliminary levy, and looking for ways to decrease it before finalizing it during the Truth in Taxation hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6.
One spending area that will need to be reduced regardless is the capital fund. It is projected at $410,300, but the budget calls for $272,700.
Bloch said some items that could be removed from the capital fund budget include a Central Park splash pad ($150,000), a 72-inch mower ($16,400), a 60-inch mower ($13,200), revamping the motor vehicle office ($7,000), a brush mower ($7,000), a city hall LED lighting upgrade ($2,700), and public works office equipment ($2,000).
“A splash pad is a luxury and comes with additional expense,” Councilwoman Betsy Stolfa said.
“I’ll vote for a concession building before a splash pad,” Councilman Jack Russek added.
Graunke said the city could save up for a splash pad over a number of years, rather than spending the total amount at once.
In addition to cutting items from the budget, the council also discussed the possibility of raising certain fees.
Councilwoman Holly Schrupp requested the city’s fees to be compared with other cities’ fees before the council discusses the budget again in October.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• discussed city-owned lots on Merriman Drive during closed session. The council is expected to take action on the lots during it’s next meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 3.
• approved modifications to the customer service representative position, making it a full-time position with benefits. One reason for the change is the resignation of management assistant Ashleigh Walter, who has left the city for a different position.
• learned that state law requires cities to allow peddlers, transient merchants, and solicitors to operate until 9 p.m. The council had approved a more restrictive ordinance, limiting the hours to 7 p.m. or dusk. The council amended that motion to be in compliance with the state law.
• requested that the owner of 260 River Street notify the city by Friday, Oct. 15, regarding plans to address a collapsed roof. The council also requested that the situation be remedied by the end of November.