City of Isanti approves 11 percent property tax decrease for 2012

By Elizabeth Sias

Residents of Isanti will have an 11 percent property tax decrease in 2012 for the city portion of their total bill.

The Isanti City Council passed the final 2012 budget, including the property tax levy of $1,742,703, at its meeting Dec. 6.

The amount collected from the levy in 2011 was $1,949,996. During the meeting, several citizens and local business owners expressed concerns regarding the increased figures on their recent property tax statements.

One reason for the change involves the elimination of the statewide market value homestead credit (MVHC) and introduction of the homestead market value exclusion (HMVE).

With the homestead credit, a property would be taxed at its market value, which is assessed by the county. The state allowed property owners to pay a reduced amount, taking the difference from cities, schools and counties. The state then wrote a check to cities, schools and counties to make up the difference.

A couple years ago the state stopped paying some of those localities for the tax credit, while still giving the credit to property taxpayers.

During the last Legislative session, they eliminated the MVHC and instead introduced the HMVE, which excludes from taxation part of a house’s value. The goal of HMVE was to preserve some level of tax relief for homeowners, however, the change impacts the overall tax base from which local governments, such as the city of Isanti, can generate revenue. This means that, with the HMVE, property is now worth less in Isanti for taxing purposes.

“(The state Legislature) suppressed their value, but we still need to bring in enough money,” Mayor George Wimmer said. “We still need those dollars, so a lot of localities taxed at a higher rate to make up the difference. We (Isanti) decided not to do that; we ate that.”

The state government will save more than $260 million by making this change. It’s designed to benefit lower-valued homes, but cities, counties and schools still need to balance their budgets. While it’s possible some property owners may see a decrease in their property tax, most property taxes in Minnesota are going up.

Commercial and industrial property taxes are going up due to the shift in proportion of the total tax base represented, higher value residential homes will have a higher rate of increase in property taxes, while lower value homes will have a lower rate of increase or a decrease in property taxes.

The council also adopted the final budget for the enterprise funds in the amounts of about $1.52 million for the water fund, $1.86 million for the sewer fund and $2.1 million for the municipal liquor store fund.

Total expenditures for 2012 total $2.92 million, including $963,766 budgeted for police, $379,951 for finance and administration, $368,819 for debt service and $289,029 for streets.

The total budget decreased about 1 percent from the city’s 2011 budget.


City Administrator Revised Job Description and Salary Increase

In a 3-2 vote, city council members passed a resolution to revise the job description and salary range for the City Administrator/City Clerk position.

The salary range is $78,610 to $97,054, and current City Administrator/City Clerk Don Lorsung, who will be on final step 7 of the new salary range, will have a monthly salary of $8,088.

The total increased cost to the city will be $8,000.

After the retirement of the Assistant City Administrator/City Clerk, the City Administrator took on additional duties. After review of the current salary range, the Staff and Personnel Committee suggested amending the job description of the City Administrator/City Clerk position to reflect the additional duties.


Cambridge-Isanti Bike/Walk Trail

Cambridge Mayor Marlys Palmer and Isanti Mayor George Wimmer sign the joint resolution on naming the bridge outlook the Congressman James L. Oberstar Outlook on the Cambridge-Isanti Bike/Walk Trail during the Dec. 6 Isanti Council meeting. Photo by Elizabeth Sias

Isanti Mayor George Wimmer and Cambridge Mayor Marlys Palmer signed a joint agreement to name the west outlook on the Cambridge-Isanti Bike/Walk Trail bridge the Congressman James L. Oberstar Outlook.

The new name “recognizes the advocacy and unwavering support of (Congressman Oberstar), a nationally-known expert on transportation issues, without whose assistance the trail project could not have been accomplished,” the Trail Advisory Committee stated, according to the resolution.

The joint resolution was adopted by the Cambridge City Council on Dec. 5 and by the Isanti City Council on Dec. 6.

“I think it’s a great step forward for the cities that eventually one day will be going together, to cooperate,” Wimmer said. “It lays a roadmap for us to have future cooperation on many other projects and especially to continue to progress into our joint future.”



In other action, the council:

• Passed a resolution allowing temporary on-street parking under certain circumstances for the streets with no parking zones in the 2011 improvement project. The routes are Elizabeth Street SW from 5th Avenue SW to 2nd Avenue SW; 5th Avenue SW from South Brookview Lane to Elizabeth Street SW; 4th Avenue SW from Elizabeth Street SW to Main Street West; and 2nd Avenue SW from Elizabeth Street SW to Main Street West. The street sections were designated as no parking zones because they are narrow and were not reconstructed with a permanent parking lane. The police department will now be allowed to issue temporary on-street parking permits for events such as family gatherings or garage sales. Winter parking rules apply, and a driving lane must be maintained at all times.

• Approved the request from the Cambridge-Isanti Youth Hockey Association to place a portable warming house in Bluebird Park use of electricity for the next five hockey seasons starting with 2011-2012.

• Approved a Legacy Park trail concept provided by Bolton & Menk with a proposed two-tier trail in the woods with an overlook over Rum River, with a condition that a temporary access easement can be obtained from Premier Bank.

• Did not pass the Isanti County Sportsman Club’s request for waiving the exempt gambling permit application fee, but council member James Kennedy said he would pay the $50 fee.

• Set Friday, Jan. 13, at 8:30 a.m., as the City Council Goal Setting meeting.