The Scandia City Council unanimously approved the preliminary levy for the 2018 budget at $2.35 million. The actual budget for 2016 was $2.24 million, and the projected completion budget for 2017 is $2.26 million. The increase means a difference of about 5 cents per $1,000 of taxable market valuation. The average home in Scandia is now valued at $292,000, so the net tax increase would be $32.
The budget increase is mostly due to three things: the debt on the plow truck, the increase for the road construction by $29,000, and adding $33,000 for the Fire Department.
“I’m comfortable where we sit, but we have a long ways to go,” Councilman Steve Kronmiller said.
The council will hold a public budget hearing to be held at the start of the Dec. 6 work station. The final 2018 levy cannot go above the preliminary level.
The meeting began with the final discussion and ultimately repealed the development code for solar farms and community gardens. The ordinance was created in 2015 with the intention that farmers and other rural land owners could utilize their land for income.
“The (ordinance) came from a group of land owners who really wanted to participate in the state community garden program. And there was a lot of support on the council at the time,”City Planner Sherri Buss said.
In 2016, the ordinance was the amended to provide a greater source of screening so it wasn’t as visible from the public roadways.
The solar gardens have been the source of debate, as the council considers the impacts to the community, both positive and negative. According to Councilman Chris Ness, most of the complaints he receives about the solar gardens is the visual distraction in the rural area.
“I think the solar gardens ruin the rural nature of the community, and I think technology is changing constantly so it’s hard to make laws or ordinances based on current technology,” Councilman Bob Hegland said. “There’s technology that will come along and change the equation.”
The repeal will allow the council the time to gather some facts about the farms’ environmental and visual impact. The council hopes to revisit the issue in the future for further discussion.
“I think it’s wise to step back,” Mayor Christine Maefsky said. “I just think we need time.”