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City sets levy at 0.9 percent

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City sets levy at 0.9 percent
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON — The 2014 levy has been set.

During its regular meeting Monday night, the Worthington City Council set the 2014 levy at $3,175,460. That represents a .9 percent increase from a year ago. In total, that’s approximately $28,000 more than last year.

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“The increase in our adjusted tax capacity and the .9 percent increase, overall, there’s about a six percent decrease in taxes for folks,” City Administrator Craig Clark said. “So, many residents are seeing a drop in their 2014 payable taxes.”

The levy includes $2,238,512 in general purpose tax and a special tax levy of $936,948.

The city will receive $3.1 million from the state from Local Government Aid.

Of the total budget —which is in excess of $7 million — a large portion goes to city personnel.

“A large percentage, a little over 57 percent goes to wages and benefits,” Clark said. “Where we saw increase in wages and health care costs will be included in that section.”

One of the items the council spent the most time discussing was the request to use Chautauqua Park for camping for the Tour of Minnesota bike ride. The event will be spending the night in Worthington on June 14, which is the Saturday of the Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Musical Festival.

While the council passed the request, it didn’t come without discussion.

“One of the reasons they are coming to Worthington on June 14 is because of the Regatta,” Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Darlene Macklin said. “They want to be a part of the Regatta festivities.”

Being close to the center of the celebration is the reason Chautauqua was chosen over another park —such as Olson Park.

“I’m concerned about this,” council member Scott Nelson said. “We’re putting a whole bunch of people right in the neighborhood. I really don’t like the idea of this thing. I’d rather we did it over and Olson Park and took up more green space. I’m concerned this is going to turn into a big mess for the neighborhood and a bunch of calls to the police department.”

Macklin said the behavior of the riders shouldn’t be an issue. If there is a mess, Macklin said, the Sports and Recreation Committee will be the hosts and responsible for clean-up after the group moves on.

“I’m confident they aren’t going to be a destructive group,” council member Diane Graber said. “One of the objectives of Regatta is to bring more people in from other towns… This is one way to do that.”

Kenton Meier said he has participated in some of these rides before and said the conduct of bike riders is decent.

“You can’t say that about the RAGBRAI group, that’s probably not a good description,” Nelson said. “Some riders can get out of control.”

Meier said this group will be 125 to 150 bikers compared to 15,000 for RAGBRAI. “It’s a whole different thing in that respect,” he said.

“Are you going to put all your names on a list with your cell phone numbers so the police department can direct you right over there?” Nelson asked.

That question did not sit well with Mayor Alan Oberloh.

“Scott, that’s out of hand,” Oberloh said. “That’s not the kind of comment an elected official should make.”

The council approved the 2014 Minnesota Legislative Priorities, which, in part, include Lewis and Clark bonding request, completion of Highway 60 to St. James, Biotechnology Advancement Center for bonding request and housing.

“Widely we feel it’s understood by the general public?” Graber asked.

“These are issues the public has very widely had conversations about over the years,” council member Ron Wood said. “This is information that’s filtered around back up to us.”

Scott Hain, General Manager of Worthington Public Utilities, presented an executive summary of the budgets from his department. The water rates will not change, the wastewater charges will be going down and the electric rates will increase.

“Overall, the three utility budgets that were approved and the rates approved by the commission, it would cost the average residential customer an addition $1.63 per month on their utility bill for those three services,” Hain said. “That’s about a 1.3 percent increase.”

The council also approved a request for the Worthington Fire Department to do a controlled burn exercises. An unoccupied dwelling at 860 South Lake Street, which is owned by Shine Brothers, will be used by the WFD.

Olson Park Campground fees were also approved. There is a slight increase in the fees next year, mostly to cover sales tax, plus a modest increase for the city. The park use fees were approved, and no changes were made from 2013.

A special use permit was approved for 322 10th Avenue for a 352 square foot addition to the existing structure.

The first reading of zoning application fees was also heard.

Before the regular meeting began, the Economic Development Authority approved a tax levy of $83,000, which is the same as it was a year ago.

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