Levy, charter, polling place changes on city agenda

NEW ULM — The first meeting in the truth-in-taxation hearing process will be held during the Tuesday City Council meeting.

The truth-in-taxation meeting will begin 6 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers.

The public will have a chance to comment and ask questions related to the 2019 budget and tax levy.

In September, the council set the preliminary tax levy at $7,759,527. This is an increase of 7.42 percent from the 2018 budget. Due to changes in the county and city tax capacity, it is estimated the levy increase could result in an increase of 0.12 percent in the city tax rate.

The impact to each household will depend on the property’s taxable market value. Based on information from the county assessor, taxable market values have increased by 7 percent.

The city must adopt a final budget and tax levy before the end of the year. The final tax levy cannot be higher than the preliminary tax levy. This means the 2019 levy will not exceed the 7.42 percent increase, but the city could chose to decrease the levy.

Charter amendment

The council will hold another public hearing on the proposed changes to the City Charter and conduct a second reading of the new ordinance.

The Charter Commission began meeting in April to consider proposed amendments. Amendments to the charter were submitted to the council for adoption.

Changes proposed include updates to the language concerning city council elections. The Human Rights Commission was added to the list of commissions in the city.

The language on ordinance procedures was also updated. Proposed ordinances must appear on the city website 10 days before the final vote.

The most significant addition is the council’s ability to establish ordinances to identify public nuisances and blight. The council would be allowed to put in place procedures to abate the nuisance, including placing assessments on the property, if the city needs to cover the costs of repair or cleanup.

During the first reading of the ordinance, there was discussion regarding changes to the fire department statute. The original recommendation required council approval for the fire chief to appoint department officers, which went against the fire department’s bylaws. The charter commission met again and brought back a new recommendation that matched with the fire department’s bylaws.

Emerson Union apartment project

The council will consider actions regarding the Emerson Union apartment project at 15 N. State St. in the former middle school.

During the Nov. 6 meeting, the council approved a Development Agreement for Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and other documents associated with the TIF.

Now the council is being asked to terminate a development agreement and declaration with Cenate, LLC, that was originally approved March 2015.

The agreement with Cenate was established at the time the property was platted. The declaration was intended to address how the property would be managed with two owners. Currently, there are two property owners and two defined uses for the property. As a result, staff believes the development agreement is no longer necessary, and the city does not need to be a part of the declaration.

Later in the meeting, the council is expected to authorize a loan from the Revolving Loan Fund to TIF in the amount of $20,000 to pay a portion of the plan review fee for the Emerson Union project.

Fourth Ward poll to be relocated

A resolution is being considered to move the polling place for the Fourth Ward to Vogel Arena. During the election in November, the city combined precinct polling places, reducing the number of polls from eight to four. The Harman Park shelter became the polling place for all of Ward 4. This led to some unanticipated challenges. Many citizens voiced their concerns about the Harman Park location.

Staff is recommending the Ward 4 polling place be changed from Harman Park to Vogel Arena, with Harman Park Shelter serving as an alternate location.