By Ivan Raconteur
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Lester Prairie City Council approved a final levy of $742,142 during Tuesday’s meeting, an increase of $67,412, or 9.99 percent, from the 2016 levy.
Prior to approving the levy, the city conducted its annual truth in taxation hearing.
Economic Development Coordinator Adam Birkholz noted the city’s tax rate will decrease from 93.25 percent to 87.05 percent because the city’s tax capacity has increased $128,958.
Birkholz noted this would result in a reduction of $85 in the city portion of property tax for a property valued at $160,000 if the taxable market value remained the same from 2016 to 2017.
Regarding the general fund budget, Birkholz said the proposed 2017 budget expenditures are $1,464,312. This is an increase of $94,137, or 6.9 percent.
The key items affecting the increase include:
• A $27,620 increase in the economic development budget for development of independent senior housing, residential development, trail development, and downtown redevelopment.
• A $21,630 increase in the fire department budget based on the need to update turnout gear and Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) air packs.
• An increase of $17,492 in the storm sewer budget to address drainage issues in the Prairie Ridge development.
• An increase of $25,428 in the parks budget, including $13,000 for future replacement of playground equipment in the Second Avenue South park. Additional increases are due to increased maintenance costs.
Alternative energy ordinance adopted
The council adopted an ordinance to address the permitting and procedures for allowing alternative energy systems (which may include solar or wind systems, or ground source heat pumps) within the city.
Stormwater utility fee
The council adopted a flat fee schedule for stormwater utility fees.
The monthly rates are $2 residential; $3 multi-family residential; $4 schools and churches; $5 commercial and industrial (less than two acres); and $10 commercial and industrial (greater than two acres).
The purpose of the fee is to provide funding to help with stormwater management.
Wage increases approved
The council approved step increases for city employees, as well as a 2 percent cost of living increase.
The council also approved shifting funds from other budget line items to pay for a health care benefit of $165 per month per employee to help offset the rising cost of individual insurance premiums. The city does not provide health insurance coverage.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• amended the city’s zoning ordinance to include a high density (more than 16 units) residential district.
• approved renewing the city’s agreement with Bolton & Menk for engineering services for 2017. The overall cost increase is less than 3 percent.
• approved an agreement with Baker Tilley to provide audit services
• heard from City Clerk Marilyn Pawelk the city received an $18,870 dividend from the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust.
• approved a request from Bergen Township to allow the township to rent the city council chambers for its regular meetings at a cost of $45 per meeting.
• approved an on-sale license for Gary and Dan Krause, who will be renting the Dodge House for the next year. The pair said they hope to purchase the business at the end of that period. Approval of an off-sale license is pending approval from the state.
• approved an agreement with Clarke Environmental Mosquito Management to provide mosquito control in 2017 at a cost of $7,056.