|3/19/2021 2:10:00 PM|
North Branch hires firm to review TIF districts, per finance director advice
Acting on the advice of the city finance director the North Branch City Council unanimously approved contracting with Ehlers and Associates public finance consultants last week, for a special review of Tax Increment Financing funds. Ehlers will have its services contract expanded to include review of existing TIF District accounts at a cost of $4,080 each. There are several ongoing funds slated for compliance review, explained Finance Director Joseph Starks.
The Minnesota State Auditor recently released its statewide TIF annual report to the legislature, and North Branch was the only entity requiring notice from the state for non-compliance issues.
The unlawful increment application was tied to an apartment project built in 2003 in North Branch that was assisted with TIF. The state’s concernwas resolved with a $178,000 payment from the city to Chisago county, to cover revenue North Branch mistakenly continued directing as TIF reimbursements to a developer, beyond the allowed end date. (Press Story March 3.)
Finance Director Starks, who is relatively new to North Branch, advised this Ehlers review be done as “good practice” and it hasn’t taken place since he’s been on staff. It will aid North Branch in being “pro-active” about fiscal matters, he concluded.
In other business council voted 4-1 to appoint Peter Schaps to the Water and Light Commission. Council also officially accepted a resignation from the commission that was submitted last month by e mail to the mayor, by utility commissioner Emil Dahlberg.
The no vote on the appointment was from Council member Kathy Blomquist, based on Schaps’s involvement in an effort to eliminate the utility, she stated. She did not feel his hostility towards the current utility structure is a positive. She stated, “I have reservations due to his history of non-support for an independent utility.”
Blomquist’s concern is based on the fact that Schaps helped lead a petition seeking to abolish the stand alone Water and Light utility. Citizens defeated the measure 3,528 to 1,412 in 2016.
Schaps also served as utility commission chairman during a very turbulent period. The utility’s general manager, who was weeks away from retiring, and the office manager, were let go on a vote by Schaps and then-commission member Kelly Neider when the utility had a three member commission.
Employment lawsuits followed and workers created a union, as the utility covered wages for utility staff away on paid administrative leave.
The commission is righting the ship under a new fulltime GM at the same time the commission became a five member body— and the original three members— were replaced.
Council member Neider made the motion to appoint Schaps saying it was a “privilege to work with him’ earlier, declaring “I believe we are moving forward.”
City Administrator Renae Fry noted that the Schaps application was the only one the city received for the commissioner seat.