Menahga facing 25 percent levy increase – so far
In September, the council approved a preliminary levy increase of 42.7 percent, payable in 2022. Interim City Administrator Betty Thomsen said the council has shaved off 17%, thus far.
The Menahga City Council scheduled another budget meeting for Thursday, Dec. 9 to slash the city’s 2022 budget.
In September, the council approved a preliminary levy increase of 42.7 percent, payable in 2022.
Last week, at the Nov. 29 special meeting, Interim City Administrator Betty Thomsen handed out the latest revised budget.
“Do you think, based on these budget numbers, 42.7 percent project levy increase is going to be whittled down to something more manageable?” asked council member Durwin Tomperi.
Thomsen said the levy has dropped 17% – from 42.7 to 25.7 percent.
Mayor Liz Olson asked if Thomsen saw any more areas that could be cut.
Thomsen noted that, under the police department, license and permit expenditures are currently $325 per officer. The minimum police uniform allowance was $2,500 in 2020 and the 2022 budget calls for $5,000, but actual expenditures were $811, she said.
The council will hold its truth-in-taxation public hearing at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, followed by its regular meeting.
Water meter problems
Public Works Supervisor Ron Yliniemi reported that he’s attempted to contact 50-some residents with faulty water meters, but no one has responded to his messages left on door knobs or multiple phone calls.
“I brought it down from 80 when I first started,” Yliniemi said. “Our meters aren’t registering the water flowing through it. It’s a faulty reader head meter or the wires could’ve been snipped.”
Letters have been included with utility bills, which are based on historic usage, he explained.
He noted that 50 is roughly 10% of the city’s water meters.
Thomsen asked how much residential water usage is not being charged.
Yliniemi said he would have to compare water reports.
Olson noted that expenses exceed revenues for the city’s water fund. Tomperi asked if the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act “will push money to smaller municipalities, like Menahga.”
“I believe so,” replied Yliniemi.
The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal signed into law aims to rebuild America’s roads, bridges and rails, expand access to clean drinking water, improve access to high-speed internet and tackle the climate crisis.
According to Sen. Tina Smith, the estimated impacts on key areas in Minnesota are as follows:
- $4.5 billion for Minnesota highways
- $302 million for Minnesota bridges
- $680 million for lead service line replacements to update Minnesota’s water infrastructure
- $297 million for Minnesota airports
- $856 million for Minnesota transit systems in rural, suburban and urban areas
- $68 million for electric vehicle charging in Minnesota
- At least $100 million to expand broadband to the tens of thousands of Minnesota households that currently do not have internet access.
Menahga Police Chief Adam Gunderson asked that the police chief be reinstated to conduct background checks.
In November, the council passed a resolution that all criminal background employment checks will be conducted by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). The cost is $15.
Gunderson said that “took the power away from the police chief.” He asked council member Dan Warmbold the reasoning behind the resolution.
Back in November, Thomsen had explained that the BCA is an unbiased method, particularly in a small town where everyone knows each other. Warmbold repeated this statement.
Gunderson said no council member asked him for his opinion prior to passing the resolution, adding that he also uses the BCA for criminal background checks.
Olson reiterated that surrounding cities, such as Park Rapids and Sebeka, also utilize the BCA. “I would say it would protect you” from accusations of bias, she told Gunderson.
Gunderson implied it was a change of personnel policy, which currently says the city administrator determines the level of background check to be conducted based on the position being filled.