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EDC increasing tax levy for 2015 only if railroad bypass grant OK’d

A pair of BNSF locomotives are shown Tuesday in the Willmar yard. The 2015 budget of the Kandiyohi Couty and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission includes matching funds toward a possible federal grant to develop a railroad bypass west of Willmar. (Tribune photo by Rand Middleton)

By Anne Polta

WILLMAR — For the first time in four years, the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission is increasing its property tax levy — but on condition that the EDC will be required to contribute matching funds toward a federal  grant to develop a railroad bypass west of Willmar.

If the grant application is not funded, the 2015 tax levy for the Economic Development Commission will revert to its previous level of $455,000.

The joint powers board of the EDC voted unanimously Thursday to raise the levy to $465,000 next year.

The board’s move came as a formality after extensive discussion that took place earlier this month at a joint planning session by the governing and operating boards of the Economic Development Commission.

Virtually all of the tax increase comes from a $35,000 commitment made by the EDC earlier this year in support of a local application for federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery money.

Local officials hope to develop a bypass west of Willmar for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. Doing so will reduce the amount of train traffic going through town and also is expected to create opportunities for more industrial development served by rail on the west end of town.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, applications totaling $9.5 billion were received during the current round of funding, far exceeding the $600 million available. Notification of the grant recipients is expected late this summer or in early fall.

Property tax levies for 2015 must be certified to the county auditor by Sept. 15. After that date, local units of government can still adjust the tax levy by decreasing it, but they can no longer raise it.

Susan Lunneborg
Susan Lunneborg is news editor of the West Central Tribune. She joined the staff in Willmar in 1999 and has been a newspaper journalist for more than 20 years. She can be reached directly at the email linked here, but for the most timely response, please send news releases to the Tribune's general news email:
(320) 235-1150