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October 2, 2022

9/23/2022 12:01:00 PM
North Branch Council voting on budget next week

The North Branch City Council, with Patrick Meacham participating on-line, last week took a quick look at next year’s levy and budget. Council will vote Sept. 27 setting a maximum for 2023 taxes so there is a figure the county tax statements can be calculated from for upcoming mailings.  By end of December the final numbers need to be adopted. Elected officials, between fall and end of the year, are allowed to reduce numbers enacted but can not increase them.

North Branch consensus last week and in previous budget discussions, has been to go with the proposed six percent increase in spending next year.  

Council member Kelly Neider asked to include a 10 percent pay hike for the council and mayoral annual stipends (now at $4,000 and $5,000) but none of the other councilmembers support this.  (Mayor Jim Swenson did not express an opinion during last week’s discussion.  He has filed for county commissioner and is not in the race for mayor next term.)

State law requires elected officers to set salaries the year before they would be in effect.  Including the Neider-requested increase would have added five-one hundredths of one percent to the levy, staff announced.  

Council member Meacham said a pay hike now is “irresponsible.”

Council member Robert Canada said this levy is not a good time to take this action.

Council member Blomquist also expressed opposition.

Council also adopted a table to replace text in the city code that describes assorted standards, from lot sizes to setbacks and organizes these in an actual land use order.  City Administrator Renae Fry said “everything is right there” in the new format and the code now is far more useful.

There was no final action on annexation matters pending with lots in Lent Township.  Council heard from at least one property owner who was claiming to be unaware of the municipal-township boundary changes proposed.

Mayor Swenson said Lent Township “came up with” the boundary lines.

(Story on joint meeting about annexation area map and a series of annexation meeting reports can be found at  www.chisagocountypress.com.) Swenson is now not comfortable with what the city is hearing regarding which parcels being annexed and parcels that are not and will go into Stacy.

Staff will make another effort to meet with affected annexation land area owners and get any requests to annex into North Branch or to NOT annex in— in writing.

In open microphone at the council meeting’s start, resident Rod Lofquist asked council to tread carefully in reviewing a plan to construct apartments on the Main Street (Hwy. 95) empty lot, which used to house a North Branch District school.  Lofquist feels this site is not appropriate for apartments.

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