Independence OKs 2 percent increase in preliminary tax levy

IndependenceCityHallThe Independence City Council, Tuesday, Sept. 10, approved a preliminary property tax levy for 2014 amounting to $1,979,806, a 2.12 percent increase over the $1,938,794 property tax levy for 2013.

With the debt service levy added in, the total preliminary property tax for 2014 is $2,183,093. Independence is paying off debt for building the West Hennepin Public Safety facility, Drake Drive and Lindgren Lane improvements and equipment certificates.

Independence is required to certify its 2014 preliminary property tax levy and general fund budget to Hennepin County by Sept. 16. The City Council must submit the final figures by Dec. 15. The final 2014 property tax levy and general fund budget can be equal to or lower than the preliminary figures but not higher.

The 2014 property tax levy will pay for the bulk of Independence’s general fund operating expenses in 2014. The council set the preliminary budget at $2,266,477 — a 3.6 percent increase over the $2,187,672 budget for 2013.

City Administrator Toni Hirsch presented two different property tax scenarios to the city council. The council picked the scenario with the lower preliminary property tax figure. The alternative would have set the preliminary levy at $2,016,002 — an increase of 3.98 percent over the 2013 property tax levy.

City Councilor Norm Wenck said he wanted the city to try to keep the property tax levy at the same level as for 2013. He estimated that Independence will get $80,000 more in revenue than is mentioned in the budget. The increased revenue is likely to come from sources such as licenses and permits.

Mayor Marvin Johnson said he did not want to set the preliminary levy at too low a figure. He preferred a 2.12 percent levy increase so the city has space to deal with in the next few months while setting the final budget.

City Councilor Brad Spencer said that West Hennepin Public Safety was seeking an increase in its budget. If Independence sets the preliminary property tax levy at too low a level, the city would have to cut budgets for other departments. Departmental budgets have been cut for the past couple of years.

The Minnesota State Legislature capped property tax levy increases for cities at 3 percent for 2014. The Legislature made exceptions for special levies, such as debt service. Independence’s 2.12 percent preliminary levy increase is below the 3 percent limit. As city officials work with the final budget, the final property tax levy increase might be lower.



In other business, the City Council approved a revised cooperative agreement pertaining to the Lake Independence outlet project. Independence, Medina, Three Rivers Park District and the Pioneer Sarah Creek Watershed District are planning to split the cost of removing vegetation from the Lake Independence outlet channel between Independence Road and Pagenkopf Road. The agreement includes the low bid amount of $49,150 from Sunram for vegetation removal plus administrative costs estimated at $7,624.60.

City Councilor Spencer said Independence has applied to the state Department of Natural Resources for a vegetation removal permit. The DNR has requested comments from the four partners in the project. The award of the contract for vegetation removal to Sunram is contingent upon DNR approval of the permit.

Lake Independence has experienced high water levels during the past several years — resulting in erosion of shore line and shore line improvements. The vegetation removal project is intended to increase water flow through the outlet channel and, in this way, lower water levels in the lake.

Contact Susan Van Cleaf at [email protected]