City of St. Michael Expected to Consider Slight Increase in Levy Tonight

The city will consider and take action on its 2013 budget in its last meeting of the year.


The St. Michael City Council will consider a property tax levy increase of about three percent Tuesday night at its regular meeting when the proposed 2013 city budget will be considered.

The council meeting is set for 7 p.m. at St. Michael City Hall.

Depending on changes in a property's market value, and the statewide changes in homestead exclusions, homeowners will see either an increase or decrease in their city property taxes that could be more or less than the 2.99 percent levy increase, said Steve Bot, city administrator, engineer and public works director, in a prepared statement.

"The recent state property tax law changes with homestead exclusions have shifted more of the tax burden to agricultural and commercial/industrial properties," he wrote.

The increase is intended to cover increases to infrastructure, public safety and equipment replacement. Additionally, paying off debt service payments for Highway 241, the one-way pair, and the Town Center civic building are the primary parts of the infrastructure payments.

"The city had originally planned to fund these projects with revenues from new development," Bot stated. "However, with the recession, there has been minimal new development, so the city has had to make up the difference with general levy."

The change of exactly 2.99 percent, if approved, reflects an increase of $151,025 to the total budget levy. The total budget levy is proposed at $5,196,344.

"Even with this increase, St. Michael is projected to remain the city with the lowest overall city tax rate (not including school district and county, but including special levies) in Wright County and one of the lowest in the state for its population," stated Bot. "This is a fact the city takes great pride in, while still providing a high level of customer service to our residents and businesses."

Even though budgets have recently been challenging, he added, the city has made it a point to not cut back on services.

"When comparing the value of the services the city provides (police, fire, streets, snowplowing, parks, senior center, library, trails/sidewalks, etc.) to other communities based on both services and taxes, many believe the City of St. Michael provides a good value to our taxpayers," he said.

At last week's truth in taxation hearing at the council meeting, a handful of residents asked the council members why the increase was necessary.

St. Michael resident Layne Roschen asked what the expected levy increases will be in the next several years.

Bot explained that despite the extended depressed economy, the city is in good overall financial shape and has avoided a "kick the can down the road" strategy by "making bond payments on time and not restructuring them far into the future as so many other cities have done."

Roschen added that since income of Americans on average has gone down between four and five percent in previous years, and individuals have had to make cuts in their budget, so should the city. He asked the city to see what can be cut from the budget, and said he doesn't think the budget will be any better in 2013.

St. Michael resident Eric Boone agreed with Roschen and said the city needs to start charging user fees to cover the costs for services that are not equally beneficial to all residents, such as the senior center, ice arena and parks and fields. He said it's not fair for all residents to pay for them if they aren't using them.

Jill Schwarz of St. Michael also said if something does not benefit everyone in the community, "it should be on the chopping block."

The city's budget and other financial information is available on the city's website, or in hard copy at City Hall. Residents can also call Bot at 763-416-7931 for more information.

Eric December 19, 2012 at 05:04 PM
I am not complaining about private activities. I am complaining that hockey, baseball, and soccer are somehow deemed "public activities" and that everyone, regardless of participation, is forced to pay for them under threat of having your home seized and sold at a tax auction.
THE REST OF THE STORY December 19, 2012 at 05:21 PM
That is extreme! There is a 3rd world country off the coast of Africa that is looking for residents. lol
Eric December 19, 2012 at 05:28 PM
It's extreme to expect people to pay for services they use? You're funny.
JT December 19, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Pay only for the governmental services you use? Welcome to Fantasy Island.
Becky December 19, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Are your kids in the Sea Devils program and/or high school level? All residents are paying for those programs as well through taxes, etc. by use of the buildings/pools. Same as we do in the Hockey Association. I pay my kids hockey fees 100% out of pocket. That pays for their ice time and registration. No one else pays my fees. And I pay for the fields around the two cities as well. I am not complaining, I am a citizen in a young community where kids have great opportunities to play all types of sports. I support all of the recreation/non-recreational (or private as you would call it) programs so that our community has great activities for our children. Sadly you don't especially when you say you have children. Oh, and one more thought...your "Private Businesses"...you are paying for their facilities, that is part of your costs, and ours in tax dollars!!!! Just ask to see these "private activities' financials and how they break down your costs. Nothing is free my friend.
Eric December 19, 2012 at 05:43 PM
No, the private places I go to have their own facilities. No school pools or rooms are used. Becky, your hockey program uses a building subsidized by my and everyone else's tax dollars. You pay your fees, but those fees do not cover the costs. If they did, the arena wouldn't need money from the city.
Eric December 19, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Basically, if all of these various sports were paid for by the participants, then all our taxes would be lower and we would be free to vote with our pocketbooks and support the activities we each like. It would be the ultimate democracy.
Becky December 19, 2012 at 05:57 PM
AMEN ERIC! The fact is, that is not how it is. So for those that complain about a rink and say they pay "nothing" for their facilities is just an ignorant comment!
Tom December 19, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Just for clarification for everyone commenting on this story. The soccer program has roughly 1400-1500 participants on a yearly basis. The soccer fields in the area are located in city parks which would need to be maintained regardless of if the soccer programs were using them or not. The soccer club also contributes money on a yearly basis to stripe and maintain those fields and has also recently purchased the city of St. Michael a striping machine for them to use on all fields. In addition the soccer club also purchased a water wheel a few years ago to water the city parks in St. Michael. Moreover, if adults wish to use the fields there is a fee for them to do so as the city only allows youth players to use them. In conclusion, tax payers are not on the "hook" for many of the costs except for the typical maintanance of the city parks
JT December 19, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Youth baseball also donates money to the city for field maintenance. Get your story straight Eric or find something else to complain about.
Eric December 19, 2012 at 08:38 PM
JT and Tom, I did look at the actual receipts verses expenses for 2010 and 2011. (There are only estimates for 2012.) There are line items for receipts and expenses for both ball field and soccer field maintenance. Baseball receipts for 2010-2011 = $7514.63 Baseball expenses for 2010-2011 = $18516.75 Subsidy for baseball = $11002.12 Soccer receipts for 2010-2011 = $2400 Soccer expenses for 2010-2011 = $14378.05 Subsidy for soccer = $11978.05 Those are both decent chunks of money. That also doesn't include a clerks time to schedule the fields.
Eric December 19, 2012 at 08:45 PM
There is one other receipt line item from 2010 only called Team Fees, resulting in $1130.72. It was $0 for 2011. Not sure what that goes to, soccer, baseball or both, but it is well short of the subsidies. I should include the ice rink for fairness. Ice rink receipts for 2010-2011 = $0 Ice rink expenses for 2010-2011 = $9417.94 Ice rink subsidy for 2010-2011 = $9417.94
JT December 19, 2012 at 09:20 PM
The city's budget is $5.2 million. Lets say you take $10,000 out of that and pass it to youth sports to cover field expenses. You result in a city property tax savings of 0.19% and more than likely drive kids away from participating because the activity is now too expensive. Enjoy your pack of gum with your tax savings.
Eric December 19, 2012 at 09:49 PM
The three activity's subsidies comes to $15000 per year or 10% of the proposed tax increase. Now we have other areas to tackle besides these sports. There is approximately $456,864 budgeted for parks and recreation, $106,405 budgeted for the senior center, etc. There must be room for cuts in these areas. Every area, especially those that tax all for the benefit of few, should be targeted.
Eric December 19, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Assuming Tom's soccer participation rate of1500 kids per year, the soccer subsidy of ~$5000 a year could be covered with a $3.50 per kid fee. Looking at the Senior Center, there is a receipt for $17500 of Senior Center Aid. It is not clear the source, but I assume it is either the state or Albertvilleand Hanover's contribution. With a budget of $106405, that comes to $88905 of St. Michael taxpayer dollars. Per the 2010 census, there are about 1000 residents 65 and older. If there was 100% involvement, that could be covered with an annual membership fee of $89. Assuming only 200 participants or 20% of the senior population, the fee would be $37 a month or$445 a year. That's not much for one person considering the cost of just one of my kids activities is basically the same per year. My daughter's dance class is $40 per month or 9 months x $40 for $360 a year for a one day a week class. Between the sports subsidies and the Seniorsubsidy, we tackled 70% of the tax increase.
Eric December 19, 2012 at 11:55 PM
On a separate sort of related note, adding the proposed 2013 money for “Paved Streets”, “Unpaved Streets”, “Ice & Snow Removal”, “Curb and Gutter”, and “Street Lighting”, the city spends just over $1 million or about 18% of the proposed budget on roads, but pays for them with property taxes. (There is another significant line for “Equipment”, but no clarity as to what the equipment is. Some may be for road maintenance equipment, increasing the amount by up to another $281 thousand.) Ideally, these should be paid for with user fees such as a gas tax. Why should a household who doesn’t drive or barely drives pay the same as a household who has three cars that all put on significant mileage? Using very rough estimated numbers, St. Michael residents use about 3.2 million gallons of gas a year. That would equate to a $0.31 cents per gallon gas tax to offset the property taxes used to pay for roads. However, if this was added to local gas station’s prices, people would simply fill up elsewhere and our local stations would go out of business. Thus a transition to a user fee (gas tax) for local roads would require State action. Basically, we would trade property tax reductions for a gas tax increase with money specifically earmarked for local roads. The funding would have to be distributed with some impartial formula so it essentially becomes a net wash for city, county, and township budgets around the State.
Eric December 19, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Of course I fear handing over more control to the State government. You can’t trust politicians, especially the more removed they are, with your money.
THE REST OF THE STORY December 20, 2012 at 01:09 AM
What color is the sky in your world?
JT December 20, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Eric how much money is in the budget for the fire department? I have never used that service, so I guess I shouldn't pay for it, right? A high % of their medical calls are from senior citizens so I guess you could just add that to your new $37 per month "senior fee". Seems fair. To pay for city trails, the city could put up toll booths every quarter mile and have users pay a fee. What nonsense.
Eric December 20, 2012 at 02:13 AM
The fire department calls used to be paid for with home owners / fire insurance just like ambulance rides are paid for by health insurance. That is not a bad model, but property taxes in this case are not a bad substitute. I stated in one of the very early comments that charging fees for parks would be "a nightmare to administer and enforce". Thus I see no way to pay for parks themselves except as they currently are, so nice straw man on the trails. The "senior fee" was intended for usage/membership in the Senior Center, not essential services like police and fire. Again, nice try putting words in my mouth.
Eric December 20, 2012 at 02:28 AM
I find it so sad that so many feel they can use government to rob from their neighbor to pay for their favorite program/sport/subsidy. What about "Thou shall not steal".
JT December 20, 2012 at 03:52 AM
Like it or not Eric there are very few people in this country who haven't received some sort of a government subsidy. Posting on the patch wont help your cause. Either run for office or quit complaining.
Eric December 20, 2012 at 04:21 AM
JT, I know. With the way things are structured, it is almost impossible to avoid it. I don't expect to ever get to the ideal situation were everyone pays for exactly what they use because it is often not practical. The trails and general parks being a good example. However, in areas where it is practical, we should strive for it. I do disagree that posting on the Patch does nothing. It does get a conversation started. Ideas have power. Of course as you suggest, running for office would, win or lose, go further. Maybe someday. Like many of you, work and kids keep me a little occupied right now. Anyway, best wishes and Merry Christmas.
JoJo December 20, 2012 at 05:26 AM
He said "private businesses" meaning not a non-profit club...and no subsidies from the city or state. Dance and swim class fees (as well as gymnastics) have to cover the entire cost of the activity (teacher, insurance, taxes paid to the city and state on every dime they take in, building rental/upkeep/cleaning, much more). Eric was pointing out the difference and wanting less city funds to be subsidizing sports. I think it's a fair point.
JoJo December 20, 2012 at 05:31 AM
I'm trying to follow your argument, Becky, but this isn't making sense. Could you restate what you find to be an ignorant comment? I'm also reading Eric's comments, and he's being very clear. I wonder if it would help to read his comments more carefully before commenting? I know you are passionate about your side on the issue, but I can't follow.
JoJo December 20, 2012 at 05:39 AM
Jumping to your info on the senior center, I have to mention that most seniors are on fixed income, often a minimal amount compared to expenses. (I have a mom age 65 and am learning just how small that is!) Thus, I have conflict in my mind about the charging of a monthly or annual fee for usage. One solution would be to do what Buffalo (I think it was Buffalo) does...open the senior center up to other groups to use as well, for a small fee. Seniors could have all morning, homeschool groups can have study and social time some afternoons, other groups as well? If the space were to be shared and not exclusively "senior" it would be a much easier amount to handle if charging a membership fee or some other way to cut down the subsidized amount.
JoJo December 20, 2012 at 05:43 AM
That idea is quite libertarian of you...and as I get older I am becoming more fond of libertarian ideas. However, I'd not want to add any more taxes to gas purchases for the simple concern that the state will no doubt allow special interest groups to grab a large percentage of it to bring the big shiny subsidy-gobbling choochoo to St Michael ;)
JoJo December 20, 2012 at 05:49 AM
JT, you are correct, and it's shameful. Absolutely shameful. Especially now that people consider receiving a subsidy as a bonus, or even something they deserve. We have GOT to untagle this disgusting mess of gov't subsidies, and Eric is obviously trying to think outside the box (as I am beginning to, thanks to these conversations!). The worst thing is that people now vote for the candidate who promises them the most goodies/money/subsidies. We're a country of moochers, and I can't believe people aren't ashamed of their greediness with Gov't money as we speed toward the "fiscal cliff."
JoJo December 20, 2012 at 05:52 AM
Tom and Eric, I have to say THANK YOU for bringing concrete information (numbers) to the conversation. It's so stupid to waste our time bickering when a little research and a calculator can shed light and rid the conversation of accusations and blame. Please, both of you, save those numbers and show up at the next city council meeting! :)
THE REST OF THE STORY December 20, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Haiti is looking for Tea Party Patriots, I hear they have Low Taxes, you should look at moving there! You may want to take up residency in a cave If you don't want to pay taxes here in the beautiful City of St Michael!


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