by Dennis Dalman
The Sartell City Council approved a tax-and-levy budget for 2018 with a 1.2 percent tax-rate increase at a recent meeting during a Truth-in-Taxation public hearing.
There were no comments from the audience.
It passed on a 4-1 vote. Council member David Peterson voted no. He said he is happy how the city staff and council keep within a reasonable budget every year, but he explained he has “struggled” with how the taxpayers will likely have to cover operational short-falls every year at the new Sartell Community Center.
The tax levy for 2018 will be $6,313,935, which means that is how much must be raised through taxes. It includes $5,102,888 for the city’s general fund, a street-abatement fund of $445,000, an ice-arena abatement fund of $22,467 and three debt-service payments of about $745,000 for debts incurred in the years 2007, 2008 and 2009.
The 2018 budget will make possible a new full-time police officer, a full-time community-service officer for the police department, a full-time street-maintenance employee, increases for street- and equipment funding (about $60,000-worth) and some funding to prepare for elections in November 2018, with some help from state funding. Those funds will help update the city’s voting equipment.
In his questioning of the budget, Peterson said he has trouble with the city having to keep putting money into the new community center, estimated at an amount of about $200,000 per year based on rough estimates. In other city-private projects, such as the ice arena and Pinecone Central Park, he said, the outcomes were more or less net-neutral, which do not burden taxpayers. Peterson said the council should perhaps consider, to be fair across the board, agreements with those other entities by pitching in in balanced amounts vis a vis city and private.
Sartell Administrator/Financial Director Mary Degiovanni said the council has a perfect right to change its policies. But she also noted in the case of Pinecone Central Park and the Bernick’s Ice Arena, those projects are not all-inclusive nearly as much as the community center is. The community center, she noted, from its inception was meant to include all city residents for a wide variety of uses, and thus, like other city services, such as parks, the city should probably expect to pay some annual costs.
The council seemed to agree with Degiovanni, and council member Mike Chisum noted the community center, which just recently opened, will have solid information in about a year about how it is doing financially as far as revenue from fees and other factors, including maintenance costs.