Feb 11, 2021 Work Session Update


There was no published agenda for this meeting.

I think it was clear from the election that the residents want a change in direction. I ran for office because I also didn't like the direction the city was going. It wasn't that I thought we needed a 180 degree swing, but leadership was on a path that could care less about resident taxes or regulation.

It was also clear to me that the new council no longer had a majority with a single mindset.

With those things in mind, I suggested we have a work session just to collect some of the major ideas each member wanted to push, with the idea being we would, in a future work session, prioritize the ideas the majority of us wanted to spend time on.

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For my input into this meeting, all of you that are familiar with my campaign ideas know what I want to put focus on.

  1. Levy (total property taxes)
    • This is far more complicated than most people realize, which is also why it's so easy to mislead people on the topic of "taxes". The bottom line is, I want the average resident's tax bill from the city (as listed in your notice) to go down, it's as simple as that.
    • Since we had a 14% increase in homes for 2020, and those new home values are significantly larger than the median home, just reducing the total levy increase percentage from what previous councils have done should produce that result. My goal is to stop these ridiculous double digit increases.
  2. Pavement Levy
    • For years the amount of taxes going into the road fund was $250k per year. Then, the 2019 budget happened (23% increase in taxes) and that shot up to $830k. If you include the new franchise tax (which is actually a pavement tax), it was $1.2M. Unfortunately that increase wasn't due to reprioritizing, it was due to simply increasing the taxes.
    • Forward to the 2020 budget (an election year), and even though other spending increased 15%, the pavement amount was reduced just prior to the vote all the way down to $200k. While I was ok with the overall increase, I made it clear that I thought that was absolutely ridiculous and not justified in any way, especially given we blew nearly all the road funding we had including borrowing all 5 years of our state aid money for all the extras on Pineview, and knowing we had significant expenses ahead of us in preparing for the new commercial areas.
  3. Development
    • I would like to see this brought under control. The past 5 years this number has varied wildly and resulted in a mess for predicting what we need in a given year.
    • I would like to see the bulk of development limited to two areas. I'm not sure if that's feasible but we'll see.
    • I want us to take a serious look at unsewered large lots. The Met Council not only allows this but offers guidance on how to make this happen all the way down to 2.5 acre lots. Not only does this NOT count against us as far as the average density requirements placed on us by the Met Council, but it results in some of the property that's not allowed to develop for decades to be sold.
    • Options to take irrigation off of the central water system. Using our expensive water on lawns makes no sense for homeowners or the city. Our peak capacity is driven by one thing, lawns. Options such as private wells or collection ponds are examples.
  4. Central Water System Treatment
    • I want to start looking at options that don't require more debt whether they be short or long term.
  5. Regulation
    • I would like staff to have a mindset that we don't need to regulate something unless it's really necessary.
  6. Building/Planning Fees
    • We have recently had a lot of activity in and aimed at the city regarding our fees.
    • I have stated in the past that I thought our fees were not at all aligned with our costs (putting 30% of the 2019 fees in the bank made it clear we needed to look at it).
    • As of late last year we made an adjustment to the fees which would result in a roughly 30% decrease. I voted for that but also made it clear, that solution may not be the best answer.
    • While we do have an outside firm audit the city's books, they look for warning signs or illegalities, not necessarily smart or prudent decisions.
    • With those bullets in mind I think we need to look at the following:
      • Where will the fees go?
      • Are we providing the adequate, quality service that the city is required to provide?
      • Are the fees inline with the city's costs?
      • What are we allowed to do with the surplus we have collected in prior years?
    • Keep in mind that, these fees have little bearing on taxes but are still important for us to watch since we have a legal and (in my opinion) ethical obligation to be "fair".

Believe it or not, I have collected many additional ideas over the past couple of years. There are ideas that I have and residents have relayed to me that aren't in here but I always keep in mind as topics come up in meetings.