by Dave DeMars
The St. Joseph City Council held a truth-in-taxation hearing regarding the 2018 city budget and then gave its final approval to the 2018 city budget at the Dec. 4 meeting. When solicited, no public comments about the budget came from the audience.
Total budget increases for 2018 were $3.1 million dollars compared to $2.9 million for 2017. This is about a 5.78-percent increase over 2017. Taxes on a $150,000 home are estimated to rise about $29 for the year. A business valued at $500,000 will see an increase of about $212.
St. Joseph City Administrator Judy Weyrens took the council through a quick review of how the council got to the final approval stage, and she highlighted the major areas of spending. It’s been a long process that started back in May of 2017. Weyrens said it has taken time and some careful work with a sharp pencil and a calculator, but the council has been very careful in its work.
Among the staffing items budgeted for in the coming year are a ninth police officer; a part-time janitor to clean the city offices, including Colts Academy, which the city took control of in July; a part-time finance technician position, which has gone unfilled for some time; and part-time workers for the recreation program and open gym.
In the area of operations, the cost of fire protection increased as a result of the annexation of a portion of property that Waite Park formerly served. Projected costs of an expiring 2017 labor agreement was also budgeted for though exact numbers can’t be known until negotiations are completed. Projected wage costs were about $2 million.
“A majority of the budget does go into wages and benefits,” Weyrens said.
Capital-equipment purchases included computer replacements, community-center equipment, skid steer, mobile radios, plow truck, mowers and other equipment. Cost of maintenance and capital equipment purchase amounted to about $1.1 million.
Major construction projects have been cut back for 2018. Most of those costs focused on extending and preserving infrastructure. Included were improvements to the CR 2 trail, lift station improvements on Baker Street, some street improvement to Fourth Avenue NE and Baker Street, and crack-sealing and seal-coating of streets. Some of the projects have federal funding or are covered by the regional sales tax.
Council approved the budget unanimously and moved on to consideration of the 2018 fee schedule. Weyrens presented a chart showing those fees that would increase in 2018. The following is a list of fees scheduled to increase: labor rate charged by the city for work performed, rental licenses, platting fees, conditional-use hearing fees, compost permits, liquor-license fees and park-rental fees.
Utility fees for water, sewer and street lighting are also projected to increase. Total increase for 2018 is projected to be about $4.05 based on 12,000-gallon water usage for a homeowner and $33.32 based on 60,000-gallon water usage for commercial users.
The 2018 fee schedule was approved. Council then heard from St. Joseph City Engineer Randy Sabart, who informed the council the city attorney has reviewed the construction contracts for the work to be done on the water-treatment plant. The first meeting with the contractors is scheduled for Dec. 8 and the project is moving forward.
The council heard a report on the Economic Development Agency’s proposed development of a 54-acre industrial park. Discussion centered around the need for extending Elm Street, the need to extend sewer in the park area and the need to meet with property owners regarding acquisitions. The council also heard about EDA efforts to market the city. Money has been set aside for public-relations work.
Weyrens reported the proposed Stearns County ordinance dealing with rezoning of certain township properties allowing for townships to develop industrial parks but bypassing some requirements to which the city must adhere did not pass muster with the county board. St. Joseph and a coalition of area cities opposed the ordinance at the public hearing. The county board directed further study and some modification of the ordinance, and it will be taken up again in 2018. Weyrens expects another public hearing and a chance for St. Joseph and coalition members to weigh in on the ordinance.
Mayor Rick Schultz reported at a recent governmental meeting he had been apprised of the issue of child-care provider shortages in rural areas. The message Schultz conveyed was that shortages exist primarily because of lack of funding, difficulty in getting certified help, and difficulties in getting a child-care center licensed and keeping it certified.
Council set meeting dates for January because of holiday conflicts. New meeting dates are Jan. 2 and 16.
Author: Dave DeMars
Born and raised in Wisconsin – a “Happy Days” high school experience. Attended UW-River Falls and followed their motto – “Where the free spirit prevails.” Four years in the Army Security Agency (Spies), 31 years teaching English and directing plays. Other jobs – gandy dancer, counselor at mental institution, snowmaker, apple picker, concrete finishing, janitor, furniture mover, appliance sales, insurance sales, media sales, real estate, and writer. I am skeptical to a fault and like all human being I am more oxymoron than I am anything else. I blog at http://www.curmudgeonstwist.net/