Street bond makes Wyoming’s budget

Levy includes $500K that will fund reconstruction projects in 2013


Alice Pickering
Wyoming Reporter

Wyoming City Council set the 2013 levy last Tuesday, Dec. 4 in the amount of $3,904,195. Included is funds for the general operating fund ($3,073,980), EDA ($42,000) and bonded indebtedness ($788,215).

Of the last amount, $288,215 is for current obligations. The other $500,000 is to fund bond payments to begin street reconstruction projects. This passed by a vote of 4-1, with Linda Yeager dissenting.

The council also approved the 2013 budget in the amount of $3,398,918. This vote was also by a margin of 4-1, with Yeager opposed.

By comparison, the total 2011 levy was $3.25 million with a general fund portion of $2,913,980. The total 2012 levy was capped at $3.3 million with a general fund set at $2,914,577.

Since the annexation, township residents have been paying a graduated tax; the rural tax rate a percentage of the city tax rate. Since the annexation, former township residents paid 50 percent of the city rate for the first three years, 60 percent the fourth year after annexation, and 70 percent of the city rate this year. Next year, the entire city will pay the same tax rate.

The city’s budget has basically the same operational costs as last year, Craig Mattson, city administrator, told the crowd. Increases included are to replace equipment: a front-end loader for the Public Works Department, an upgraded copier, funds to upgrade the city’s municipal code so that is conforms to and is consistent with the current laws. Some of this expense, about $25,000, is for legal review; a necessary expense for the city.

Related to increases in Public Safety, 80 percent of the budget is for employee costs; officers and fire department personnel. About $12,000 is to retrofit vehicles, and about $25,000 is an annual payment to Chisago County for 800 MHz radio communication.

Last year, in lieu of including $500,000 as part of the levy for street replacement, it was placed in a dedicated reserve, where it remains to ultimately help with street repairs. Mattson told the audience that the Public Works budget line item for repairs was reduced for the proposed 2013 budget. The reduction here is to be “diverted to street reconstruction.”

Polaris and Xccent will begin paying taxes on the improvements on their property in 2017. At that time, they will begin paying an additional $250,000 and $80,000, respectively, in property taxes. The city will receive a portion of this increase.

There has been no local government aid (LGA) to the city since 2007, according to Mattson. Right now part of the value of house is “excluded” and property tax is levied on the remaining amount.

There were several residents who complained about having lower property values but higher taxes this year. Mattson said this is a result of legislation at the state level. Some property values are lower and with a portion of the value excluded from taxes, even an unchanged or slightly lower levy can mean higher tax rates on the remaining value.

Mattson presented the rationale for including $500,000 in the levy. This will provide a revenue stream to pay bonds sold to pay for street reconstruction. The increase in taxes to cover this will be deductible. Assessments for street repair are not. Also, the cost to residents will be smaller than being hit with an assessment for street repair, plus interest payments.

WSB is currently doing a feasibility study on streets in the northeast quadrant of the city and the area near Greenway Avenue. Mark Erichson, engineer, had earlier identified these streets. The study is for repairs to be completed in 2013.

Erichson explained that the feasibility study to select the first streets for repair will include a pavement condition index (PCI). The city will try to “get the best value for the dollars spent, seeking streets that do not require attendant infrastructure improvements.” Mattson explained that residents should see evidence of improvements (in streets) with the tax increases.

Mayor Eric Peterson said that the staff has kept requests back; there have been minimal increases in line items. Peterson urged support of the street fund, especially for those on fixed income, “assessments would kill” these residents.

Joe Zerwas supported the budget and the levy.  He believes the addition of $500,000 to the levy is the “best way to move forward without a hammering assessment.” That would be the worst way to finance the streets. Roger Elmore explained that “we’ve seen the preliminary numbers.” He believes the plan is good.

Yeager said her reason for not supporting the plan is that it would not be fair to businesses. She is “not in favor of assessments, but they are for a fixed term and for a fixed amount.” Referring to Shoreview’s plan, which is the model for Wyoming, there have been increases in taxes beyond what was originally planned.  She opposed the levy and budget as presented.

Mattson explained that the council had received the budget in September, and basically it has remained the same with reductions on some line items.  The city has staff members, professionals, who know requirements for their respective specialties. There have not been many changes in the budget between September and December.