Independence OKs $2.8 million preliminary 2018 tax levy

The Independence City Council, Tuesday, Sept. 19, approved a preliminary 2018 General Fund budget of $2,873,565, a preliminary 2018 city property tax levy of $2,869.058 million and a 2018 tax levy of $64,010 for property owners in the Pioneer/ Sarah Watershed District.

At the meeting, the City Council also took up other business. Here are meeting highlights.

2018 PRELIMINARY BUDGET

The amount of the preliminary General Fund budget is an 8.22 percent ($218,199) increase over the $2,655,366 General Fund budget for 2017.
Mayor Marvin Johnson said the preliminary General Fund budget for 2018 is below the amount of Independence’s budget for 2009. “During that time we have had to make some major cuts,” he said. “We still have been able to maintain a city that has been functioning properly.”

The General Fund pays for city operating expenses, including mayor and city council expenses, elections, planning and zoning, water resources, general government buildings, legal services, building inspections, animal control, street lighting, recycling, parks and capital outlays for general government, public safety and public works.

Money for the General Fund will come mostly from city property taxes, because Independence does not receive Local Government Aid. The preliminary property tax levy for taxes payable in 2018 is an increase of 6.67 percent ($179,427) from the 2017 city property tax levy of $2,689,631. The preliminary property tax levy for 2018 includes money to pay installments on the city’s debt.

State law requires Independence to certify its preliminary 2018 General Fund Budget and city property tax levy to Hennepin County by the end of September and the final 2018 General Fund Budget and city property tax levy to the county by the end of December. The final figures can be equal to or lower than the preliminary figures, but not higher. In November, property owners in Independence will receive notices from Hennepin County showing anticipated 2018 property taxes for specific properties. The amounts will be based upon a property’s assessed market value that was determined this past spring and preliminary property tax levies reported by the city, local school district, Hennepin County, watershed districts and other local jurisdictions.

Independence will have time to tweak its 2018 General Fund Budget and city property tax levy between October and mid December. Also, area school districts might have levy referendum questions on the ballot in November. So the final 2018 budget and property tax figures might not be the same as the preliminary figures.

Independence property owners can contact City Hall and City Councilors with comments on items they would like to see added to, changed or removed from the budget.

MONEY MAKING OPPORTUNITY

City Administrator Mark Kaltsas described a request from Augustana Care, of Hopkins, which is seeking a way to sell $6 million in bonds.

Augustana is asking Independence to be part of a sale of conduit bonds, so that the nonprofit facility can get a lower interest rate on the bond sale. In return, Independence can charge a fee.

Kaltsas said there would be no downside for Independence for the conduit bond sale. Augustana would be responsible for the debt, and the city would get additional revenue. Independence has an annual cap of $10 million for issuing its own new debt. The city is not issuing any debt this year, so Independence could serve as a conduit for Augustana’s entire $6 million bond sale.

The money would enable Augustana to refinance $500,000 of debt and to construct capital improvements to its facility. Augustana Care operates a senior housing and health care facility and offers community based services to older generations and others in need.

Kaltsas asked the City Council to call for a public hearing on the bond sale. At that time he would present the details. The council set Tuesday, Oct. 17 as the hearing date.

BUDD AVENUE ASSESSMENT

The City Council adopted the proposed assessment of David and Carla Leisch for street and utility improvements on Budd Avenue. They are the only Independence residents who would benefit from improvements made recently by the city of Maple Plain. The rest of the benefiting properties are located in Maple Plain. The Leisch family will be assessed $19,931.98 for the work.

OTHER

The City Council also:

APPROVED a large assembly permit for a Sept. 23 horse event held at property located at 4405 County Road 92N. Kuka Equestrian expected 100 people to attend.

HEARD an activity report from Public Safety Director Gary Kroells, of West Hennepin Public Safety. He said that, through Aug. 31, WHPS responded to 5,822 incidents: 3,186 in of them in Independence, 2,154 in Maple Plain. In August WHPS responded to 404 incidents in Independence and 286 in Maple Plain.