People want more pieces to tax puzzle

By: 
Wade Young

People who attended the Town Hall last Wednesday on the proposed $6.7 million fire/ambulance building and City Hall remodel wanted more pieces to their tax puzzle and questioned if the city can afford the plan.

At the meeting’s start, Mayor Tom Eisert clarified that it was the council, staff and administration’s job “not to sell this concept”, but to inform residents of the process and provide the facts. He said decisions for the plan were based on need.

“We’ve utilized spaces in the most efficient manner. This is a need that isn’t going to go away. Montgomery has shelved this need for more than 20 years. The longer we put this off, the price tag keeps growing. It’s inflation,” he stated. “The concept is simple. It’s function over fashion with a sense of community pride in its curb appeal. This cannot be a decision based on cost alone. This is what we as a community needs, wants and deserves.”

City Administrator Brian Heck reviewed the plans, which have been adapted and reduced several times over the course of the year from discussions with the departments and comments from the public.

Eisert then took questions, which centered on the city’s debt load and the tax impact residents will feel when it’s added to the city’s general levy, the school construction and county taxes, which include the new justice center.

“A couple of months ago when you were talking about the Town Hall meeting, you guys talked about the numbers for the school referendum, new county jail to be included so these people could see. Lynn Heinzig actually asked for it. Those numbers aren’t on here,” said Trevor Houn. “That’s pretty important when talking about these numbers. Also, the six percent levy that you guys are going to pass should also be included in these taxes. The money for roads needs to be brought up in this discussion. I agree that we need something but you guys are going to dump it all on us. Our taxes are going to jump. That’s part of your job to look that up and bring it to the table here.

He also questioned the facility bonds how it would max out the city’s potential for bonding. He questioned the roads and how those would get fixed in the future.

“You talked about $22 million for roads. Are there going to be any bonds taken out to fix those roads?” he asked.

Heck said they are still trying to figure out how the road fixes would work out. He mentioned assessments, and some paid by the water and sewer funds. The Public Works Advisory Board (PWAB) is still working on it.”

He added, “There will be potentially a new bond on that chart. This is just focusing on what the building would be,” referring to the tax impact chart from the presentation.

According to the city’s audit, which the council approved on July 15, Minnesota statutes limit the amount of net general obligation debt a City may issue to three percent of the market value of taxable property within the City.

The current debt limitation for the city is $5.3 million.

The estimated cost for the project is $6.7 million.

Pam Edel said nobody was against a new building for the departments, but she was also concerned with the cost.

See more in the print edition.

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