Blue Earth trims levy hike to 3.5%

BLUE EARTH — Property taxes in Blue Earth are going to go up a bit, but not as much as originally listed.

Blue Earth City Council held its Truth-in-Taxation hearing Monday. At the end, the council approved the budget for 2019. It will translate into a 3.5 percent increase in the property tax levy over the current year.

In September, the council had set its preliminary budget with a levy increase at 11.3 percent, but backed a goal of getting that number down to 3.5 percent by December.

“Working with the department heads, we were able to get that number down to the council’s stated goal,” city administrator Tim Ibisch said during the hearing. “That would translate into an increase of $18.23 in property tax next year on a $100,000 house.”

The city’s budget for next year shows an increase of $64,661 over the current 2018 budget. It will go from $4.29 million this year to $4.35 million next year.

That means the levy is slated to increase from $1.49 million in 2018 to $1.54 million in 2019, or a 3.5 percent hike.

Ibisch gave a full report on the budget as part of the hearing. Some of the highlights include a large hike in the debt service fund, an added $95,000 for a new pool slide (not all of which will come from the city budget), an increase in the EDA budget and decreases in the Public Works Department and Blue Earth Public Library funding.

In other business, the council:

o Heard an update from Blue Earth Light and Water manager Tim Stoner concerning street light upgrades and costs. He suggested that Blue Earth Light and Water could forego charging the city for the cost of electricity to run street lights, in exchange for the city paying more for the monthly utility billing performed by Light and Water. Currently, the department takes care of the billing for both itself and the city, and the city pays $350 per month. Stoner reported the fee had not been increased in at least 12 years, and suggested $1,500. The city would save more than that by not paying for street lights electrical costs. More discussion on this arrangement will be held in the future.

o Held a closed session to discuss a complaint filed against a Blue Earth police officer. When it came out of closed session, the council voted to put the officer on paid administrative leave pending an external investigation.

o Heard an update from City Engineer Wes Brown on the status of city projects, all of which are now wrapped up for the season. The council decided it wants to make sure the construction company working on the new residential project needs to make the completion of the streets in the housing area a top priority in the spring.