by Samara Postuma
The city of St. Michael conducted the annual truth in taxation hearing.
The council also heard about planning commission items, including potential for rural development, and approved an ice arena repair agreement.
With a full council present and various members from staff, city administrator and public works director Steve Bot led the presentation.
Bot started the presentation by explaining the process in which the city determines their annual budget and dispelled the myth that the process is a quick one. In July the administrator typically requests council input on priorities for the following year which in summary is to “maintain a low tax rate while properly funding infrastructure, equipment and supporting a highly efficient/effective staff.” In August, staff prepares the first draft and by Sept. 15 council adopts a preliminary levy/budget and sets the meeting date for the truth in taxation meeting.
In December, the truth in taxation meeting takes place and at the last meeting of the year the budget and levy are adopted.
Bot went over the accomplishments the city had in 2013. Those included a request for more transparency, that community development director Marc Weigle headed up a communications committee, and that city clerk Diana Berning led the Facebook/Twitter/website updates.
Another accomplishment in 2013 was to find a way to get I-94 expanded. “We spent a ton of time and energy working on this and it’s not slated to be a 2014 project,” Bot said.
Most homes in St. Michael are seeing an increased property value on their property tax statements this year for the second consecutive year. The proposed property tax levy is 2.99% and the increase is being split among three categories: infrastructure debt payments, fire and public works equipment replacement and building repairs.
“We haven’t needed a lot of money for repairs but the responsible thing to do is to start thinking about it,” Bot told the council. The city typically runs a zero based budget though they will end 2013 with a surplus due to added revenue, needs based spending and holding off on some purchases until the state sales tax exemption kicks in for 2014.
Bot turned the floor over to the public and resident Eric Boone who moved to St. Michael from Michigan 11 years ago, addressed the council. “If I were a teacher, I’d give you a 95%,” he said.
Boone explained to the council that he felt that several items on the budget aren’t used by all residents and urged the council to consider a user fee for those items that fail to meet a 60% participation. While Boone did not refer to items by name, some items that may not apply to all residents would include the senior center and the hockey arena.
At the next council meeting the council is expected to adopt the proposed budget for 2014.
In other news, the council was provided with the draft minutes of the recent Planning Commission meeting. Community Development Director Weigle reviewed the discussion from the meeting, noting the proposed ordinance amendments and a potential mini storage/U-haul site along Hwy. 241.
The commission also discussed moving forward with looking at options for rural development, particularly in light of the recent Pelican Lake improvement project and how that could affect St. Michael’s future park/trail plan, sanitary sewer plan, and transportation plan.
Weigle reviewed a proposed schedule for gathering public input and it was stated there will be more joint meetings with council and the commission to discuss the options.
In further matters, the council was previously provided with a proposed joint agreement between the cities of Albertville and St. Michael and the STMA School District for repairs to the dehumidification system at the STMA Ice Arena.
City Attorney Dave Lenhardt reviewed the agreement and commented about not having a dollar limit on the repair.
Councilor Kevin Kasel informed the council of discussion from the recent Ice Arena Board meeting and said the board authorized moving ahead with the project using a construction manager. Mayor Jerry Zachman and councilor Joe Marx recommended using a general contractor instead, since there will be someone liable for the work completed.
After additional discussion and the recommendation from the architect and STMA Arena Board, the council was OK with approving the project with a construction manager. There was also discussion about placing a maximum dollar amount on the work to be completed in the agreement, but the project needs to be done and all three entities involved are aware of the proposed costs for the project.
The council unanimously approved the Joint Agreement Governing Repairs to the STMA Ice Arena as presented.