BY GABE LICHT
MONTROSE, MN Montrose residents will see the city’s tax rate increase 2.28 percent in 2017, after the Montrose City Council approved the budget and levy during a Dec. 12 meeting.
The budget will be $1,716,890. Of that amount, the levy will be $1,024,242, which is about a 10 percent increase over the previous year, Deputy City Clerk Wendy Manson said.
“Because of our increase in our tax capacity, the tax rate itself is only a 2.28 percent increase,” Manson said.
A resident asked what the taxes on a $200,000 house would be.
“Your tax statement should show how much it is increasing or decreasing,” Mayor Greg Youmans said. “Mine is decreasing $47.”
Another resident asked how Montrose’s tax rate of 55.14 percent compares to that of other cities in Wright County.
While Manson did not know that answer offhand, Montrose’s city tax rate is eighth-lowest among the proposed city tax rates in the county. When school and county tax rates are included in the equation, Montrose has the fifth-lowest total tax rate among those proposed in the county.
Manson focused on the reason for the increase.
“You can get comparisons and compare to other cities, but the bottom line is, at some point, we need to start building the capital improvement fund so we can do the projects we need to do,” Manson said. “We’ve put everything on hold for like 10 years because of the economy. At some point, things need to be done.”
Manson said the increase in the capital improvement fund is solely responsible for the levy increase.
“The difference between last year and this year is $92,000 to $93,000,” Manson said. “We’re putting $134,500 into the capital improvement plan. Last year, I think we put $30,000 in there.”
Public Works Director Sean Diercks said city staff has identified several projects slated to be completed before 2030.
“We’re looking at a new well and well house, replacing an 80-year-old well house and wells drilled in the ‘70s, and also the 50,000-gallon water tower in Lions Park. That’s 86 years old. Those projects alone are roughly $1.5 million,” Diercks said.
Several streets also need to be repaired, including Second, Center, Emerson, and Dakota.
When asked why money was not put aside for capital improvement projects when the economy was booming, Diercks said, “Ten years ago, the capital improvement plan was to pay existing debt. We had so much existing debt that reserves we had were used to pay that.”
The council approved the budget and levy on a 4-0 vote. Councilwoman Jill Menard attended the meeting via Skype, but because the meeting was not noticed properly, she could not vote.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• approved the following sanitary sewer system and water rate increases: a $100 increase in the sewer access charge to $5,100, a $100 increase in the water access charge to $2,300, a 10-cent increase in the sanitary sewer system rate to $3.95 and from $5 to $5.10 per 1,000 gallons, a 10-cent increase in the tier 1 water rate (up to 5,999 gallons) to $5.10 per 1,000 gallons, an 11-cent increase in the tier 2 water rate (6,000 to 11,999 gallons) to $5.61 per 1,000 gallons, and a 12-cent increase in the tier 3 water rate (12,000 gallons or more) to $6.17 per 1,000 gallons.
• closed the meeting to consider allegations or charges against an individual subject to the council’s authority. When the meeting reopened, Youmans said there had been a motion to take action against the individual, but that motion was not seconded, so no action would be taken.
• referred consideration of semi parking in residential areas to the planning and zoning commission.