In the absence of Mayor Dana Graham, Councilor Rhonda Pownell, Mayor Pro Tem, facilitated the discussion.
2014/2015 Budget Preliminary Discussion: Both Finance Director Kathleen McBride and Financial Advisor Mark Ruff had good news for the council. Ms McBride reported that as a result of the recent appropriations by the 2013 Legislature, for Northfield there would be an increase of $558,898 over the 2013 Local Government Aid. She suggested that as the budget discussions progress, the council should consider allocating some of the additional amount into the Capital Reserve fund, perhaps for major capital projects. Cities will be exempt from sales tax beginning January 2014, thus reducing city costs for purchases. A change in the market value exclusion will make possible increased revenue in the Housing Redevelopment Authority and the Economic Development Authority revenues without increases in the levy rate.
Mr. Ruff of Ehlers and Associates reviewed the debt study, part of the overall financial management of the city. The city issues improvement bonds, primarily for street reconstruction and repair. These are repaid from special assessments to property owners. (Improvement bonds are not included in the debt limit.)
Tax supported debt is authorized by statute and may be equal to three percent of estimated market value. Using that calculation, the city’s debt statutory debt limit is $33,688.494. The city now has $9,700,000 in long-term outstanding debt paid from taxes and appropriations leaving a $23,988,494 unused debt limit. Thus, Northfield is below average in outstanding debt for cities of its size
The city has made smart infrastructure investments at the right time, according to Mr. Ruff. The low level of debt along with the short terms of the debt helps the city’s bond rating.
Official City Map: Jasper J. Krueggel, the city’s engineering and GIS Technician, explained that state statute authorizes city councils to adopt an official map which may include certain elements and is intended to be a planning document to assist public and private property owners to adjust their plans. Although the statute suggests that future and proposed land be included, city staff recommends that the map include only current elements and that it be revised as future land needs develop. The packet included two draft maps, one with proposed roads as described in the 2008 transportation plan, and the other without those roads.
Councilor Suzie Nakasian urged that the council, working with the planning commission, create a future land use map. Councilor Jessica Peterson White said she would support approving the map “reflecting reality” and that a separate process be established to create a future transportation map. Councilor David DeLong was concerned that there might be a problem if someone makes land use decisions with the current map and it later is changed. “The purpose of the map is to protect someone from eminent domain if we want to put a road in later.”
City Administrator Tim Madigan said the council could take its time, that there is no rush to approve the official map. This summer, the council can design a plan for the transportation discussion, which could be community-wide and include surrounding townships.
Future meetings: The packet included an outline of agenda items for the rest of 2013. Mr. Madigan noted that there would be a ground breaking for the police facility on June 25, prior to the council meeting.
Several councilors expressed concern about the way the announcement in the Northfield News about the hearing on the tax abatement process on the swimming pool bonds had been made. Many citizens who had received notices had contacted councilors and city staff with concerns and questions about how this would affect them. Councilor Suzie Nakasian, who represents the area, said it would be helpful to get additional word out about this.