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BE proposes 10.7% tax levy hike

By Staff | Sep 25, 2016

This new “Welcome to Blue Earth” sign was installed last week at the intersection of Highway 169 and County Road 6, north of the city.

The 2017 levy is set.

The preliminary one, that is.

Blue Earth’s City Council reviewed the tax proposal at Monday’s meeting, agreeing to move forward with a total levy of $1,496,413.28, or a projected increase of about 10.7 percent.

“We set the levy at the max,” city administrator Tim Ibisch said, garnering unanimous support from the council. “And we’d lower it from there.”

Scheduling Dec. 5 as the date for a hearing on the levy, which includes a general operating total of $623,508.35 and a debt levy of $872,904.93, Ibisch added that a proposed 2017 operating budget would be $3,098,418.44.

That budget, Ibisch said, includes increased costs for animal control as well as street lighting.

The council, without absent members Glenn Gaylord and Russ Erichsrud, approved the numbers. And councilman John Huisman suggested that the city explore bids for fuel costs like Blue Earth Area schools do.

“Nothing against Kwik Trip,” Huisman said, referencing the city’s typical fuel supplier. “But if our local places are interested, I’d like to see us consider them.”

Ibisch agreed before reviewing the city’s financials once more, reminding the council that, even amidst potential changes in taxes, Blue Earth still stands out in Southern Minnesota when it comes to certain areas of affordability.

“We do have the lowest property taxes of the three big communities in Faribault County,” he said, highlighting tax trends of both Wells and Winnebago.

At Tuesday’s meeting, preceded by a work session in which the budget details were previewed, the City Council also:

Agreed to provide up to $6,000 in support of downtown businesses’ proposed Main Street reopening celebration.

The suggested event, presented by Huisman on behalf of several business owners, is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 15.

City engineer Wes Brown said there are “no guarantees” downtown construction will even be finished by that date, but barring serious weather delays, he said such a celebration would not be affected by finishing touches to Main Street work.

And the celebration, Huisman said, could feature two bands as well as food vendors and barricaded streets, at least as long as the interested businesses have their way.

“They’re looking at probably $15,000 total to do this,” he said, “and they’re asking for $6,000 from us to make some of this happen.”

Ibisch, echoing other voices of support in the council chamber, said the project is feasible but also needs to be more fleshed out.

“We could do an up-to amount,” he said, preceding the council’s vote to do exactly that. “But I?think we’d still need to see a cost breakdown for it, too.”

Those costs could include whatever is necessary to secure sponsorship of a beer garden, which is another suggestion relayed by Huisman for the event.

“We’d have to have someone else sponsor that unless they’re just doing Oswald’s (Brewery),”?Mayor Rick Scholtes chimed in. “And the money we contribute in general would come from the liquor license fund.”

There are still plenty of discussions to be had on the proposed celebration, the council agreed. Indoor contingency plans could be in the works because of fall weather, which council member Dan Warner cautioned his colleagues to consider. And the logistics of setup, event scheduling and the Main Street work at the center of it all will be vital components to further planning.

Heard updates on the county’s “Three Sisters” properties on Main Street.

Tim Clawson, executive director of the Faribault County Development Corporation, visited the meeting to inform the council that he obtained keys to the unused buildings.

“We’re going to do a sweep of the building with police, firefighters and others,” Clawson said, “and then we’re scheduling tours of the properties as well.”

With city attorney David Frundt passing along an apparent county recommendation of $100 per building for a potential city buyout of the old stores, Clawson said it would be ideal if not only council members but also the city’s Economic Development Authority toured the Three Sisters before moving forward with any possible purchase plans.

Received an update from Brown on Main Street construction.

As he indicated during the council’s discussions about a possible downtown celebration in October, Main Street work may be done by the middle of that month, but the weather could ultimately be the deciding factor in progress.

“Really, what they have is about two weeks of work left,” Brown said. “That is without rain delays, though, and there’s supposed to be some coming.”