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Council approves tax levy

WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington City Council approved the final levy of $3,085,427 for the coming year after a truth in taxation hearing during its regular Monday meeting.

The levy is broken down into an operating levy of $2,093,364 -- most of which is for the most of the city's general funds -- and special tax levies of $992,063 that go toward bonds that fund capital projects, or abatements.

A 7.6 percent increase from the overall 11.9 percent levy hike is due to the decertification of TIF District 7. The TIF district, which encompasses the area surrounded by Minnesota 60, Interstate 90, Oxford Street and Diagonal Road to the west of the city, became effective in 1986. In line with Minnesota statute that allows 25 years for increments to be collected, the district needs to be decertified by the end of this year.

The loss of $325,000 in local government aid, coupled with the elimination of Market Value Homestead Credit (MVHC), further contributed to the levy increase. The Homestead Market Value Exclusion, which replaced the MVHC, means taxpayers have to bear the entire levy.

Prior to the elimination of the MVHC, the state contributed $204,000 to the city's levy. The effective tax rate increase for residents will be 4.3 percent.

"Being a constituent, I look at you people (council members) as our voice for Worthington who are going to talk to people like Hamilton and Dayton," said local resident Kevin Donovan, the only person who attended the truth in taxation hearing. "Your voice is probably better than mine in trying to keep a cap on the levy."

Donovan explained that 52 percent of his property tax levy increase was due to the overall levy increase by the city, county and school district.

"I think you're wrong," Mayor Alan Oberloh said. "There needs to be 100 people like you saying what you just did to get their attention."

"I'm disappointed that I'm the only person here from the city who has a concern, but it's because we've been told it's not going to do us any good," Donovan said.

In an unrelated matter, the council approved new rates for Prairie View Golf Links. According to the related motion by Alderman Ron Wood, membership rates for next year will include an increase of 4.3 percent -- in accordance with the effective levy increase -- for regular members; a one-time, 15 percent discount for new members; and a fee for all cart riders regardless of ownership.

The discounted rate for new members replaced the previous pricing structure, which allowed a three-year introductory rate to new members before they had to pay the full rate.

"It's enough of a discount to entice somebody to try it, but not too much of a discount for someone who is just shopping around for the absolute lowest, rock-bottom rate every year," said Dakota Golf Management representative Tom Jansa.

In other business, the council:

* Approved the city's fund budget of $39,322,275 for next year .

* Approved a proposal from Turbes Dreakan Kvilhaug Hoefker & Co. P.A. for the 2011 year-end audit services for an amount not exceeding $19,700 but excluding word processing of the report.

* Approved a third reading of a text amendment to the city's zoning ordinance. The amendment would allow land use of child care facilities as a special permit in the "M-1" - Light Industrial zoning district.

* Approved a second reading to the proposed ordinance that amends the annual per-acre residential storm water rates to $228.

* Approved the proposed sewer service charges for next year, which will be a 0.2 percent increase in usage charge and a 1.44 percent increase in connection charge. Usage charge is billed based on water consumption and assumed pollutant levels for non-industrial users, while the connection charge is equivalent to the monthly minimum charge.

* Approved the street lighting fund budget for 2012 that adjusts the method of charging. The new method will separate utility costs based on average wholesale cost for power usage, from the interdepartmental charge that is the annual average cost for installation and maintenance of infrastructure. The separation means users will be taxed only for electric usage and not for interdepartmental charges.