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October 20, 2021

9/24/2021 12:07:00 PM
North Branch Vets' Memorial not finding consensus on location
NB getting paid back nearly all of overpayment of TIF
North Branch council members were pleased to learn last week the city has succeeded in getting an almost full reimbursement from a developer who was overpaid TIF (reimbursements) several years ago.  

The Press reported in March 2021 that the Minnesota State Auditor had flagged North Branch as the only city in a statewide annual report that was in non-compliance for Tax Increment Financing activity.  A contract for making payments to recoup costs associated with an apartment project had expired,  but the developer continued to get reimbursement payments from North Branch.  

The city then had to cover $178,000 as the amount of property tax that didn’t make it to the county—and which should not have gone to Ash Street LLC, developer of Kelly Apartments.  

The county collects all the revenues and then redistributes to local governments and schools similar to how the state will redistributes revenue to the county and as Local Government Aid.  The jurisdiction needs to take in what it needs to support its budget/levy.

In Tax Increment Financing, a developer who is approved for TIF pays their property tax— but some or all of the increment, which is the increase in the value of the property with the new project on it, goes back to the developer to relieve project expenses.  The city however must cover the lost property tax that was redirected to the developer in order to fill the revenue gap.

Council heard last week  from legal counsel that the city was able to negotiate for $100,000 from the developer in recent weeks.


The proposed Veterans Memorial in North Branch’s Central Park got a cool reception from city council members last week, as an after-thought and something being shoe-horned into a spot. Council voted to table moving forward on the Central Park design and instead want a committee to be formed to research options.

Central Park is the second site where the Veterans Memorial has been tentatively positioned.

Previously school district property was under serious consideration until it was learned the school district is not legally able to be responsible for a general public amenity.  Donations can not be accepted or administered by the district for this, maintenance could not be funded or done by district staff, that kind of thing.  

Interestingly,  the city parks board recommended the Central Park site to the council.  Nate Sondrol, city recreation department director and GIS specialist, told council the Parks Trails and Open Space group at its last meeting wanted the city to do what it can to support the memorial.

However, PTOS Chairman John Pantelis, was the lone no vote on the memorial.  He told council there are a “baker’s dozen” good locations for this memorial and Central Park is not one of them.

Council member Amanda Darwin agreed, saying Central Park doesn’t provide the space for reflection, or quietude that a memorial needs. She said she reviewed 27 other built veterans memorial locations and at 24 of these the sole focus is veterans.

Council member Kathy Blomquist commented this memorial idea has been in the wind for years and years  and no landowner has stepped up to donate a site, so public property usually ends up being considered.  She questioned how much actual veteran support is behind this concept.

Nobody attended the council meeting to present the Central Park option, although at the PTOS meeting local businessperson Joe Scaramell had been the agenda item presenter.  (See graphic.)

Council members Neider and Darwin were directed in the motion that passed last week, to see if a volunteer committee can be brought together and an update was scheduled for the October 26 city council meeting.

In other business:
The discussion on the preliminary budget for 2022 revolved around eliminating a $27,000 line item for an assistant fire chief.

City Finance Director Joseph Starks said he was “looking for firm budget guidance” in order to bring forward an acceptable budget for adoption by the next council session.  

North Branch’s levy hike for 2021 taxes was 1.9 percent. What’s being looked at for 2022 is a 3 percent hike, and this fire personnel item is equal to six-tenths of a percent of that.

Consensus was to not fund the position but this was not finalized.  

The maximum budget/levy must be established by end of September. The final is adopted in December for the following year and can’t be greater than the fall maximum.  Items can be shifted within the budget though.
At the pending three percent hike North Branch will still be below a 50 percent tax rate, but come in higher than Wyoming and Forest Lake.

Included in the budgeting is a 3.5 percent annual pay hike for Law Enforcement wage tier rates, for three years.
Starks also said he put in a placeholder for debt service that would be attached to some equipment purchases the city hopes to acquire next year and start paying off in 2023.  The budget debt load is dropping by $260,000, and another $260,000 payment falls off in 2024, Starks announced, so he is proposing applying that for a plow truck, fire truck, and other capital needs.

The leaky roof on city hall is being fixed. Council approved a quote from North Tech Construction for $41,400.
No jake braking signage will be posted in an effort to address noise complaints with big rigs. Staff will contact MNDOT for Highway 95 locations suitable to have signs.

And— North Branch Police are moving forward on body-worn cameras.

No members of the public had comments at the hearing to review draft policy. City Council ws all in favor of the body-worn audio and video devices and will soon vote to adopt the policy and put the cameras into use. (See Press story on the body-worn camera program Sept. 2)

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