by Dennis Dalman
At a Dec. 10 public hearing, the Sartell City Council unanimously approved a city budget and tax levy for 2019 – one with a property tax that is about the same as last year’s.
No members of the audience spoke at the public hearing.
The salient points of the budget/levy were presented to the council by Sartell Finance Director Heidi Ostlie.
Last month, the council passed a preliminary levy, but staff had to return to the drawing board – or cutting block – because the city was given a tax-capacity rate of 42.26 percent, higher than anticipated. In the preliminary budget/levy, the plans were to have a tax-capacity rate of 41.87 percent, compared with the previous one of 42.39 percent. Thus, the staff had to make adjustments based on anticipated revenues and expenses for 2019 in order to keep taxes at a flat rate.
The council members too, in special sessions, had worked very hard to review and discuss possible cuts to keep taxes flat. They and the staff succeeded in getting the tax rate about one-half of a percentage point within the 2018 levy.
The total city portion of the tax levy for 2019 is $6,570,145. The total of the general-fund budget is $7,116,142 for which the tax levy will fund $6.57 million. The rest will be covered by fees and other city revenue.
Taxes will increase a modest amount from about 1 percent for residential property to 1.5 and 2 percent for commercial and industrial properties.
Ostlie characterized the new budget/levy as “frugal.” And the council agreed. They expressed satisfaction about the flat tax rate and thanked Ostlie, city staff and department employees for working so hard to keep the budget in line and taxes flat.
Mayor-elect Ryan Fitzthum praised the city for keeping the tax rate flat for the past eight years. That process should continue in an ongoing basis. He singled out Sartell City Administrator Mary Degiovanni for much of the hard work in recent years to keep the budget low and the levy fair.
The other council members concurred in that opinion.