Council OKs preliminary $250,000 levy increase
WILLMAR -- A suggested $250,000 increase in Mayor Frank Yanish's proposed $4,201,028 property tax levy for 2015 would repay some funds borrowed for $1 million in City Auditorium improvements and begin catching up on delayed facilities' spending.
WILLMAR - A suggested $250,000 increase in Mayor Frank Yanish’s proposed $4,201,028 property tax levy for 2015 would repay some funds borrowed for $1 million in City Auditorium improvements and begin catching up on delayed facilities’ spending.
The increase suggested by Finance Committee Chair Denis Anderson and approved 4-2 by the Willmar City Council Monday night would raise Yanish’s preliminary levy from $4,201,028 to $4,451,028.
City staff said the council must certify the preliminary levy to the Kandiyohi County Auditor by today. City staff and several council members said the council can reduce the preliminary levy but can’t increase it between now and early December when the council holds the 2015 budget hearing and certifies the final levy amount to the county auditor.
Council members voting in favor of the increase were Rick Fagerlie, Audrey Nelsen, Bruce DeBlieck and Anderson. Council members voting against were Ron Christianson and Steve Ahmann.
Council members Jim Dokken and Tim Johnson were absent.
But Yanish cast some doubt over the vote when he asked if he can veto the council’s action, although he did not threaten to do so.
City Clerk-Treasurer Kevin Halliday said yes, after Yanish receives the minutes of the meeting from Halliday.
Anderson said he was hoping the council would not have a contentious year and he thought the council would come to a reasonable conclusion.
Finance Director Steve Okins said if there is no action contrary to the action taken by the council, city staff would certify the resolution as passed by the council.
Halliday said that under the city charter, the mayor has to receive the minutes from the city clerk and the mayor has 96 hours to file a veto.
“You have a statutory obligation to send a levy. You can’t submit nothing to the county auditor,’’ Halliday said.
If the levy were vetoed, Okins said he believes the county would certify the levy at the current $4,139,400 level.
Anderson asked about a council override.
Halliday said 5 votes would be required.
“We will do our best job with the budget,’’ Anderson said. “I was hoping for the opportunity to do that.’’
Before the vote was taken, Anderson said council action last month to borrow money from city funds to finance the auditorium improvements will have far-reaching consequences.
He suggested the levy increase be used to repay the $250,000 borrowed from the city’s insurance deductible fund at the rate of $30,000 per year; and repay the $250,000 borrowed from the city’s public investment revolving fund at the rate of $50,000 per year.
Also, he said funds borrowed from WRAC-8, which is the community access channel, reserves and borrowed from unspent 2011-2014 capital funds won’t be available as future revenue.
At the end of 2016 and going into 2017, the increased revenue would go toward aging facilities, parks and streets as pointed out to the council during a tour last week, Anderson said.
He said the council has been letting facilities, parks and streets “go by the wayside’’ and said the city needs to generate some additional income “so we can move forward.’’
City staff estimated Anderson’s proposed increase would increase taxes on a $150,000 house by $26 a year.
Christianson said he understood Anderson’s concern, but asked that the council consider the effect of higher property taxes on retirees living on a fixed income. He said the tax base will increase from new construction. He favored “tweaking’’ proposed capital improvement spending; and said the city will gain increased taxes from MinnWest Technology Campus when a state business subsidy expires at the end of 2015. The city’s share of the increase was estimated $70,000 to $80,000.
Ahmann suggested the council delay some vehicle purchases.
City Administrator Charlene Stevens staff was willing to discuss the vehicle replacement policy. But she said a piece of equipment has a useful life and additional money could be spent to keep it running.