ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Baxter City Council looks to the future

BAXTER - Cultural references for a 1980s film series with a time-traveling Michael J. Fox helped lighten a Baxter City Council budget discussion Wednesday.

Jeremy Vacinek (left) presents budget numbers during Baxter City Council work session Oct. 21, with council members Todd Holman, Steve Barrows, Mark Cross, Mayor Darrel Olson, Quinn Nystrom and Gordon Heitke, city administrator. Renee Richardson/Brainerd Dispatch
Jeremy Vacinek (left) presents budget numbers during Baxter City Council work session Oct. 21, with council members Todd Holman, Steve Barrows, Mark Cross, Mayor Darrel Olson, Quinn Nystrom and Gordon Heitke, city administrator. Renee Richardson/Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER - Cultural references for a 1980s film series with a time-traveling Michael J. Fox helped lighten a Baxter City Council budget discussion Wednesday.

The council was meeting on a date marked as the "Back to the Future" day in a nod to predictions made for Oct. 21, 2015. Predictions about the Chicago Cubs in the World Series, hovering skateboards and drones all proved pretty close to home. The council said one prediction with a high impact on road budgets didn't come true - namely flying cars.

"I think we obviously know we still need roads," said Jeremy Vacinek, Baxter finance director.

Baxter's busy street construction season and its plans for needed projects for the next five years put an emphasis on road work expenditures.

Those budget numbers, taxes and fees and priority projects were all part of a Baxter City Council work session Wednesday. Vacinek presented information on spreadsheets and budget highlights for several hours. Council members went through lines of information from individual operational budgets, reaffirmed the importance of putting money away to pay for projects and equipment and looked at what projects will be needed through 2020, including a possible pedestrian bridge over Highway 371.

ADVERTISEMENT

No increases were sought for water or sewer fees, otherwise known as WAC and SAC fees.

A 5 percent increase was proposed for the city's stormwater fund. For residential properties, it's an increase from $25.20 to $26.52 annually as the fee goes from $2.10 per month to $2.21. For commercial properties, the increase means going from $0.0105 per square foot annually to $0.0110. Vacinek provided a list comparing Baxter's residential monthly costs of $2.21 with other cities using 2014 numbers - Brainerd cost $3, Detroit Lakes charged $4.15 and Bemidji charged $6.44. In future years, Vacinek said the increase is expected to be 3 percent, which will still be in line looking at the spending range of comparable cities.

The city noted the last time the stormwater fund was adjusted was 2008. In the meantime, the city has added stormwater retention ponds. Those ponds come with maintenance requirements and cleaning. The city has more than 200 stormwater ponds and put in a handful more this year with its most recent construction projects. Cleaning the ponds has a price tag of $20,000. All told, the city expects to spend $65,000 for stormwater repair projects. Other budget items in this fund include $30,000 for street sweeping contracts.

Vacinek said there is no plan for an increase in the city's water accessibility fund or water operations fund or sewer operating fund. Estimates are for a 1 percent increase in revenues from new sewer connections to the city's system. Expectations are for eight new residential units and 15 new commercial units in 2016. Next year, the city is planning to use $1.1 million from the sales tax proceeds to pay for one of its major capital improvements - an automatic meter reader system.

The subject of water also came up with a future expenditure as the council discussed plans to rehabilitate the city's north water tower in 2018. The project, including repainting the water tower inside and out, has a cost estimate of $900,000.

The water tower is the one with the slogan "Baxter Naturally." Council members asked if new city logos were part of the cost estimate.

"I think that's an opportunity for us," said council member Todd Holman.

The cost estimate included painting it with the existing text and not adding other colors, which increases the cost.

ADVERTISEMENT

Beyond the water and sewer considerations, Baxter's street projects are the major factor in the capital improvement plan. Between 2016 and 2020, Baxter expects to spend at least $41,229,400 on street improvements, as well as utilities. And those projects do not include costs for a pedestrian bridge, which may come with a feasibility study price tag of $75,000. Next year, staff expects to look more closely at what those numbers could be and what help there may be to defray those costs through grants and other funding.

Staff will submit a final budget document to the city council Nov. 20. Then at 6 p.m., Nov. 30, a public informational meeting is planned to review the budget and the property tax levy. Members of the public are invited to attend and share their thoughts with the council.

The final 2016 budget, property tax levy and the council's five-year capital improvement plan will then be adopted during the council's Dec. 1 meeting about 7 p.m.

RENEE RICHARDSON, associate editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz .

What To Read Next
Inmates in-custody in the Aitkin County jail in Aitkin, Minnesota
Inmates in-custody in the Beltrami County jail in Bemidji, Minnesota
Inmates in-custody in the Morrison County jail in Little Falls, Minnesota
Inmates in-custody in the Itasca County jail in Grand Rapids, Minnesota