Isanti approves 0 percent change in 2013 taxes

Isanti residents will once again see no increase in their city property taxes in 2013.

The Isanti City Council approved the final budget with a 0 percent change in the property tax levy during the Dec. 4 meeting.

The tax levy was set at $1,792,884. This is in an effort to maintain property taxes in 2013 at the same level as 2012.

To balance the budget, about $313,000 from the general fund balance will be used. Total expenditures for 2013 is $3,035,546, which is a slight increase over the 2012 budget of $2,920,066. The highest expenditure of  $982,251 will go toward the Police Department.

“The budget and levy as adopted tonight has zero general fund levy increase and the increase in spending is due mostly to increased insurance cost,” Isanti Mayor George Wimmer said, explaining that the $313,000 from the general fund balance is to ensure city services are maintained at current levels and taxes are not raised. “According to my Long Term Financial Plan the Council adopted, we will be doing this the next two years.”

Update on Isanti Community Center

Representing the Community Center Task Force, John Bettendorf reported to council members on the task force’s recommendations for securing funding for improvements to the community center.

The task force was created to look at ways of reducing the financial burden of the community center on the city and to address capital improvement costs.

In November, Isanti voters rejected a ballot question asking whether the city of Isanti should be “authorized to issue its general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $250,000 to finance the betterment and improvements to the City’s Community Center?”

The funds would have been used for renovation; a complete remodel with new windows, doors, siding, roofing, interior decor, mechanical, bathrooms and more.

However, because the question did not pass, the task force looked at ways to keep the existing facility funded and in use. The group wrote a business and marketing strategy to outline tasks to generate additional revenue and to complete some improvement projects to increase the viability of the community center.

Some of these strategies include establishing a city committee to oversee operations of the community center, prioritize maintenance issues, provide capital improvement recommendations to the city council and market the facility.

“It would make the city more aware of what’s happening with the community center,” said Council Member Sue Larson, who is also on the task force. “If people are more aware of what’s happening with the community center and what it takes to operate the community center, then they’re liable to be more active in trying to figure out ways to generate revenue.”

Some of the proposed revenue enhancements include creating a membership program for nonprofit groups that use the facility on a regular basis as well as establishing a sponsorship program for donors.

Some proposed annual fundraising events include a senior dance, a themed gala event, a family fun run/walk and a family fun day.

Bettendorf also explained the proposed marketing strategies, including developing a logo and tagline, such as “Where Generations Connect” or “Where Generations Meet.” The logo would be used in signage and communications regarding the community center.

The task force also recommends creating a web presence for the community center to provide information on what it’s used for, fees and photos. Bettendorf said enhancing signage and developing an official brochure would help increase awareness of the facility.

Wimmer said the city council will decide at a later date how to move forward.

In other action, the council:

• Approved a request by Lt. Gene Hill to research a grant that would fund the purchase of a computerized License Plate Recognition System (LPRS), a new tool for law enforcement that automatically scans vehicle license plates while driving. The system is capable of scanning thousands of plates each hour. When a problem is detected, the system photographs the vehicle in question, stamps a GPS location of the vehicle and beeps to notify the officer that there is some action required on their part. The system was designed to detect stolen vehicles, notify officers of registered owners who have an active arrest warrant or their driving privileges are suspended, cancelled or revoked. The system will also notify the officer if there is a vehicle owned by a registered sex offender in the area of a school, park or day care center.