Fairmont OKs levy hike of 12%

FAIRMONT — The Fairmont City Council held its annual truth-in-taxation hearing Monday. No members of the public offered comments on the city’s proposed use of tax dollars that will result in a 12.1 percent levy increase to generate an additional $489,000.

“The levy increase results in a 10 percent tax increase,” said city finance director Paul Hoye.

A residential property valued at $95,000 would see a tax increase of less than $50 for the city’s portion. A $250,000 home would note an increase of about $125. A $500,000 commercial/industrial property would see its share of city taxes increase about $460.

Hoye cited various factors for the higher levy in the $13.3 million budget: $65,000 for a fire truck replacement fund; $50,000 set aside for street improvement projects; an additional street department employee; increasing the annual amount in the housing demolition fund from $42,000 to $75,000; staff additions of a code enforcement position and a community development secretary position; a contract with the River Valley Drug Force; employee cost of living increase of 3 percent; an 18 percent increase in health insurance; and an 11 percent increase in work comp insurance.

Some projects will be funded through a projected liquor store income of more than $500,000, as well as drawing from reserves. These projects include $40,000 for the Southern Minnesota Educational Campus; $225,000 to replace the Pioneer Bridge; $30,000 for improvements at the Winnebago Avenue Sports Complex; and $50,000 to resurface Veterans Park. The three slides at the Aquatic Park will be refurbished at a cost of $83,000.

“It’s probably past time we put some money into those slides,” Hoye said.

The Adventure Playground, an accessible play area proposed for Gomsrud Park, got a boost with a $150,000 contribution from the city through the liquor store funds. A contingent supporting the Adventure Playground stayed through the budget presentation and the council meeting to shake hands with council members and city staff and thank them for their support. Fundraising efforts for the $450,000 grassroots project surpassed $100,000 last week so the city’s contribution tipped the amount over the half-way mark.

The roof at the senior citizens center will be repaired at a cost of $25,000, and the building also will get a $2,000 lighting upgrade. The city will contribute $7,000 for new windows and furniture at the Martin County Library. Demolishing the Glows storage building at 426 Winnebago Ave. carries an estimated price tag of $35,000.

Capital projects for the Fairmont Police Department include $20,000 for 10 defibrillators for squad vehicles and $30,000 for a new K-9 dog and training.

Mike Sheplee, Martin County deputy assessor, was on hand to explain the three distinct tax mailings property owners receive from the county each year. In the upper right corner, the mailings inform the property owner of the valuation of their property, their proposed taxes for the following year and the taxes due in the current year, as well as timely action that can be taken with each mailing.

He encouraged property owners to call, stop in or email the Assessor’s Office with any issues, questions or comments.

“We don’t make these values up, but we do have to calculate them,” he said. “We want the records to be as clean and accurate as possible.”