WORTHINGTON — As city council members prepare for final tax levy certification, they're still considering the ideal uses of taxpayer money. Tuesday's regular city council meeting centered on a discussion of how to proceed with the 2020 budget.

So far, the net levy for 2020 is an increase of 14.52%, down from 17.54% at pre-certification. Factors such as changes in personnel, debt service and bonding adjustments contribute to the increase.

Director of Engineering Dwayne Haffield has noted on more than one occasion that needed street projects have to be put off due to lack of funding, council member Chad Cummings said.

Cummings suggested that rather than waiting for a huge disaster due to delaying routine street maintenance, the council allow room in the budget to tackle small projects now. Council member Alan Oberloh noted that one the most frequent requests from his constituents is to fix this road or that road.

"Streets are just about my biggest priority," Cummings said. "I hate taxes just as much as anybody else. But we're not talking about taxes; we're talking about a levy ... which are not net equals."

A 14.52% levy increase does not mean a 14.52% increase in individual property taxes. It simply designates an increase in the total funds needed, split between all property in Worthington. Each property's share is determined by its estimated market value, as calculated by the county assessor's office.

A levy increase may not mean an increase in taxes at all, as was the case last year. More than $30 million in new development has been constructed in Worthington in 2019, which will likely have a high estimated market value and therefore be responsible for a high proportion of the total levy.

Cummings suggested actually raising the levy a little more than 14.52% in order to accommodate some additional street work. For example, budgeting $50,000 more for street improvement would bring the total levy increase to 15.7%.

"I'm kind of with Chad on that," said council member Larry Janssen, agreeing that it makes sense to plan for the future a little at a time.

Although the council was generally supportive of Cummings' idea, no official action was taken Tuesday.

Also on Monday's council meeting agenda:

  • A third and final reading of an ordinance to amend city code was passed that allows for certain recreational land uses within a B-2 zone. This action allows the proposed W.E.L.L. and new field house to be built in their planned locations.
  • A first reading passed of an ordinance to amend the storm water rate by $2.88 annually per residential lot.
  • Approved a slight increase in sewer service charges, by 0.3% on usage and 2.8% on connection.
  • The city has received an appeal on an assessment against a West Gateway Drive property owned by LaVonne Lutterman for sanitary sewer and water improvements. Staff anticipates being served with court documents and recommended hiring a legal expert, as the city has not received an appeal in more than 15 years. Council agreed to hire counsel from Quarnstrom & Doering P.A. out of Marshall.