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BE looks at 3-percent hike in the levy

Council will vote on the levy increase at their Dec. 21 meeting

By Chuck Hunt - Editor | Dec 13, 2020

The Blue Earth City Council held their annual Truth In Taxation Hearing on Monday night, at the end of their regular council meeting.

The council had studied the proposed 2021 budget and resulting levy increase during their work session, held before the council meeting.

At the Truth In Taxation Hearing, which had no members of the public present, mayor Rick Scholtes reviewed the budget and levy numbers.

“The levy would be $738,314 for the general fund and $985,390 for debt service,” Scholtes said. “That totals to a levy amount of $1,723,704, which is a 3-percent increase over the 2020 levy amount.”

Back in September, the council had set a preliminary levy amount of $1.88 million, which was a 12.3-percent increase over the current year. However the city was able to trim back the budget to get the property tax levy increase to the 3-percent number.

Scholtes also said the council would not be voting on the resolution for the final budget and levy at this past Monday’s meeting, but would instead be voting on it at the next council meeting on Monday, Dec. 21.

Some additional changes could be made at that meeting. One item discussed by the council as a possible addition was $12,500 to the Economic Development Authority (EDA) budget, to add another day per week to the CEDA EDA specialist contract.

Councilman John Huisman brought up the need to add the additional day to the CEDA (Community and Economic Development Associates). Currently the city has CEDA employee Amy Schaefer working four days a week as Blue Earth’s EDA specialist.

Huisman cited all the work that was done for the CARES Act funds dispersement, and the need to find more businesses for the Golden Spike Business Park.

Councilman Dan Warner, who was attending the meeting via teleconference call, said he agreed with Huisman.

“Can we add that into the budget?” Warner asked. “So it will be there if we need it.”

Mayor Scholtes said yes, but thought it would be better to wait for the EDA board to meet on Thursday to see what they would recommend, adding that the budget could be adjusted after that.

Councilman Glenn Gaylord agreed with the mayor.

“I think it would be better to do it on a recommendation from them (the EDA),” Gaylord said. “Then we can have all our options on the table.”

Another possible addition to the budget which was briefly discussed was creating funds to help with construction of a new animal shelter.

Some of the discussion concerned who would, or should, eventually own the animal shelter when it was completed.

Eventually the council decided not to add the item to the budget until a project was actually underway and funds were needed.

In other business at Monday’s meeting, the council:

• Voted to vacate a platted street named Domes Drive located east off Highway 169 just south of Interstate 90. The vote to do so was 6-0, with councilman Huisman, who owns the adjacent property, abstaining.

• Voted to approve the ordinance covering rules concerning having chickens and bees within the city limits. The vote was 5 to 2, with mayor Scholtes and councilman Russ Erichsrud voting no.

• Passed a resolution dealing with the final total tally of all dispersements of CARES Act funds, which the city must keep on file.

• Voted to OK three pay estimates to APX Construction for work completed thus far on three multi-family units being built in the city.

Two of the pay requests were for work on the duplex E. Fourth Street, for amounts of $103,732 and $80,093, and the third was for $34,078 for the duplex on Blue Stem Drive in the new Prairie View Housing Development.

• Voted to issue an order for summary enforcement of the nuisance code for a property at 726 W. First St. If the owners do not comply with the order, the city will clean up the property and bill the property owners for the work.