|10/7/2021 3:20:00 PM|
Chisago City proposes 6.15 percent levy increase
by LEILANI FREEMANAt its Sept. 28 meeting, the Chisago City Council set a public hearing on the proposed 2022 tax levy for 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 16. At that hearing, city residents are invited to comment on the proposed 2022 budget and 6.15 percent tax levy increase.
The 2022 budget, as presented by Finance Officer Cassie Gemuenden projects a General Fund levy of $2.06 million. With the addition of annual levies for outstanding general obligation bonds ($381,000), capital equipment ($450,000), for operating Ojiketa Regional Park ($61,719), the EDA ($141,664), and tax abatements forGreen Lake Villas, Solstice Properties and Kendall Howard ($49,000), the net tax levy rises to $3.15 million to be spread across the entire city. A sewer plant levy of $45,000 will be applied only to the “old” part of Chisago that existed prior to more recent annexations, because former township parcels are hooked up to city sewer.
Gemuenden explained that the 6.15 percent increase in the proposed levy stems from: a 5.76 percent increase in the Capital Improvement Levy, an approved increase of 4.77 percent in the Lakes Area Police budget, and a 2.45 percent increase in salary steps and a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase for city employees as a result of the 2021 compensation study.
Other factors affecting the budget and levy are expansion of the city planner and assistant finance director positions from part-time to full-time, additional funds needed for election year expenses, and an increase in the public works budget for a planned 2022 storm sewer project.
The operating levies for the EDA and Ojiketa Regional Park may see increase as a result of a rise in the city’s estimated market value, Gemuenden stated. The tax capacity of Chisago City has risen due to increases in property valuations resulting in, the proposed overall tax rate .60 percent decrease.
Residents interested in viewing details of the proposed 2022 budget and tax levy prior to the Nov. 16 hearing may contact city hall at 651-257-0620.
Wyoming bridge project opens old wounds
The Chisago City Council voiced concern about the effect next summer’s bridge reconstruction project in the City of Wyoming will have on Chisago City’s portion of East Viking Blvd. Currently, Chisago City’s section of East Viking Blvd. off County Road 36 leads toward the Polaris Research and Development facility in Wyoming. The last section of the road belongs to Wyoming as it enters the plant. Tension has existed between the two cities ever since a portion of Wyoming Township adjacent to the City ofWyoming was annexed to Chisago City. Due to its poor condition, the road as it approaches Polaris from County Road 36 is posted “closed to large trucks”, but Mayor Gustafson and others on the council say trucks going to Polaris have continued to use it.
Gustafson, who was on the Chisago County Board at the time the Polaris facility was built, said initially Polaris wanted to limit access to its facility from that direction in order to “discourage competitors from getting close enough to watch snowmobile testing.” Gustafson said the agreement at the time stated that access to Polaris from theChisago City side would be limited to fire, police and ambulance service in the event of an emergency “but that clearly hasn’t been the case.”
Now, the bridge reconstruction project will force all Polaris traffic to use the deteriorating section of East Viking Blvd. for at least six weeks.
Wyoming notified Chisago City that bridge reconstruction is scheduled to begin inmidJune 2022 and will necessitate closing the west entrance to the Polaris facility for approximately six weeks. While the bridge is closed, all Polaris traffic will have to use “Chisago City’s portion” of East Viking Blvd. Wyoming told Chisago City that road construction equipment will be staged only on the “Wyoming side of East Viking Boulevard” and that contractors will be held responsible if their vehicles cause damage to the Chisago City portion of the road. Polaris plans to reduce its onsite workforce during the construction period to reduce traffic.
Mayor Gustafson remained concerned, and said he wants “something in writing” from Wyoming stating that when the bridge project is over “there will be absolutely no truck traffic” on Chisago City’s section of the road “and if there is we’ll close our portion of the road.” Council members also said they wanted assurance that Wyoming and Polaris willrepair any damage to the road caused by the project.
The council instructed City Administrator John Pechman to schedule a meeting involving Polaris, the City of Wyoming, Mayor Gustafson and a member of the Chisago City Council to discuss the issue. Wyoming had indicated a willingness to hold additional meetings as needed.
Tax abatement granted Green Lake Villas
Following a public hearing, the council voted to allow up to $120,000 in tax abatement for Green Lake Villas LLC and authorized preparation of all necessary documents. The abatement will remain in place for up to five years or until $120,000 in real estate taxes have been abated, whichever comes first.
Three people spoke in opposition to the abatement at the public hearing that preceded the vote, and one person sent an email opposing it. The city pointed out that the Green Lake Villas project incurred losses in profit as the result of a Department of Resources lawsuit challenging the number of boat slips allowed under the city’s PUD ordinance.
One of the citizens attending the hearing said the developers were professionals who should expect to assume some risk. “I’m assuming the sellers have already made substantial money on their commissions,” said resident Mark Hanson. “I don’t see the justification (for the tax abatement).”
The property was the site of the former Lakeside Elementary School, which means it was not previously providing any tax revenue to the city. The city’s portion of the taxes on each of the 34 lots as they are developed will range from $1,325 to $2,450 annually. During the abatement, all of the lots will still be charged a base tax. The proposed abatement was estimated at about $60 per lot per year.
At the close of the hearing, Mayor Gustafson said, “The DNR cost the developer a lot of money when all those boat slips were not allowed. My personal opinion is this is not an unreasonable request to the city considering what (the developers) have had to put up with.” The mayor then moved for approval of the abatement, which was seconded by Councilman Jeremy Dresel and passed unanimously.
In other business, the council:
- reissued a peddler’s permit to Shawn Dunne for his boat rental business off Aldrid Avenue at Russell Beach Park, for the 2022 season. As part of the agreement Dunne also agrees to pay the resulting real estate tax of $1,500. Dunne rents pontoon boats, small fishing boats with motors, canoes and kayaks. Council members approved the permit saying they had heard no adverse comments about Dunne’s business in the past year.
- approved the use of up to $2,000 in park funds to purchase and plant 10 trees at Raspberry Hill Park. The trees will be planted along the north end of the park and near the playground for buffer and shade purposes.
- okayed holding the annual Halloween Haunt Oct. 22-30 at Ojiketa Regional Park and the annual Falloween celebration, a free children’s event, on Oct. 30. Ojiketa will become “Sleepy Hollow” for this year’s Haunt, which costs $5 per head but will be reduced to $3 if you bring a food or toiletry item for Family Pathways.
- was informed by Councilman Jeremy Dresel that the Cable TV Commission approved purchase of new microphones and cameras for the city council rooms.