BY SUSAN VAN CLEAF
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
On Tuesday, Dec. 13, the Independence City Council approved a $2,655,366 final General fund Budget for 2017, an increase of $179,526 (7.25 percent) over the $2,475,840 general fund Budget for 2016. The General fund finances city operating expenses, such as police service, fire service, public works, parks, and administration.
The council also approved a $2,689,632 final city property tax levy for 2017, an increase of $172,073 (6.83 percent) over the $2,517,559 final city property tax levy for 2016. City property taxes pay for the bulk of General fund expenses, along with principal and interest on city debt.
At the meeting the city council also took up other business.
BUDGET, TAX LEVY
The city council held a Truth in Taxation hearing and answered questions from the audience.
Certified Public Accountant Steve McDonald, of Abdo, Eick & Meyers, explained key budget figures. He said Independence property owners received notices from the Hennepin County auditor in November containing preliminary information about their 2017 property taxes. The information was based upon Independence’s preliminary general fund budget and property tax levy, which the City Council certified to the county in September.
Mayor Marvin Johnson noted that property owners in the Orono School District approved operating levy and bond referenda in November, so 2017 taxes for property owners in the Orono School District are likely to be higher than those spelled out in the November notices.
Meanwhile, the city of Independence made cuts to the preliminary 2017 general fund Budget that the city council approved in September, McDonald said. These cuts will affect the city’s 2017 tax levy.
Hennepin County, Independence, school districts, watershed districts and other local jurisdictions all levy property taxes, and these are on individual property tax bills. Residents of the Pioneer Sarah Creek Watershed District will pay a $66,200 property tax levy to the watershed district, a three percent increase over last year.
Cities must certify their final 2017 general fund budgets and property tax levies to the county by Dec. 28.
Mayor Johnson explained that an individual’s property tax bill is based upon the assessed valuation of his or her property. Hennepin County assessors determine assessed valuations after looking at market values of similar properties in the area. He encouraged property owners to watch for valuation notices in their mailboxes in March. A property owner can protest an assessed valuation at the local Board of Appeals and Adjustments in the spring.
As Independence drafted its 2017 budget, the city took into account a three percent inflation increase, McDonald said. The city budgeted $15,000 for updating its comprehensive plan, $8,500 for capital costs and $20,000 for increased recycling expenses.
The largest General fund expenditures in 2017 will be $1,103,625 for police, $506,970 for streets, $368,660 for financial administration, $333,035 for fire service and $101,770 for building inspection.
MARK KUKA RIDING STABLE
The city council approved a conditional use permit allowing Mark Kuka to operate a commercial riding stable on agricultural property at 4405 County Road 92N. The site is west of County Road 92 and north of County Road 11.
The council also approved a lot line rearrangement for Kuka’s two pieces of property. The result is that the accessory building for the riding stable is located on the same property as the principal structure, as required by city ordinances. The largest lot spans 80 acres, and the smallest lot spans 17 acres.
The conditional use permit has an occupancy limit of 49 people for the riding stable building during equestrian related events. The reason for the limit is the fabric roof that was installed on the building. If Kuka installs an improved roof, he can ask for an amended conditional use permit allowing a larger number of occupants.
Kuka is allowed to board 25 horses on his 80 acres. Hours of operation are from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day.
SETTLERS PRAIRIE SUBDIVISION
The city council approved a development agreement between the city and B. Benson Group for the Settlers Prairie residential subdivision, located at 1160 County Road 19N. The developer now can begin work on the four-lot Rural Residential development.
The council approved preliminary and final plats in November. An existing home and several accessory structures are located on the site. The home would remain on one of the four newly created lots. Lot sizes would range from 3.56 acres to 5.43 acres.
Plans show lots arranged along Settlers Court, a new public street that enters the subdivision from County Road 19 and ends in a cul-de-sac. The development agreement requires the developer to construct the street and a storm water collection and filtration system. B. Benson Group is required to pay a $10,500 park dedication fee.
City Administrator Mark Kaltsas asked for council direction on a request from the Northwest Trails Maple Plain Nomads associate snowmobile club. The Nomads asked Independence to consider allowing relocation of the snowmobile trail from traveling along Pagenkopf Road to traveling through Pioneer Creek Park. The club has experienced issues with the trail located along Pagenkopf Road between Baker Park and County Road 11.
Kaltsas suggested routing the trail to follow the railroad tracks on the south end of the park. This route would direct snowmobilers away from recently planted trees, playground equipment and the sledding hill. The Nomads would need to mark the trail to keep people out of the park.
City councilors commented that the park might appear to be wide-open spaces to some snowmobilers. They might be tempted to head into the main park. Not all of these snowmobilers would be members of the club.
The council directed that the trail should be on the south side of the park, with a barrier between the trail and the park. City approval of the trail location would be formalized after the Nomads make arrangements for the trail route outside the park.