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Baxter City Council OKs 2.37 percent levy increase and 2016 budget

BAXTER--The Baxter City Council on Tuesday gave final approval to a 2.37 percent levy increase for 2016, as well as a new city budget. The council voted unanimously to increase the city's property tax levy roughly $133,000 from 2015. The council ...

Baxter city councilors Mark Cross, right, and Todd Holman, center, together with Mayor Darrel Olson, left, talk during a city council meeting Tuesday. Zach Kayser/Brainerd Dispatch
Baxter city councilors Mark Cross, right, and Todd Holman, center, together with Mayor Darrel Olson, left, talk during a city council meeting Tuesday. Zach Kayser/Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER-The Baxter City Council on Tuesday gave final approval to a 2.37 percent levy increase for 2016, as well as a new city budget.

The council voted unanimously to increase the city's property tax levy roughly $133,000 from 2015. The council approved the levy increase and budget with a unanimous vote, which was part of the consent agenda. Although any councilor or meeting attendee can request something be pulled from the consent agenda, if the item stays on the consent agenda it's voted on together with all the other items in one motion. The council held a public hearing on the budget and levy the night prior to the regular meeting on Tuesday.

Rising property values meant $14.9 million in new market value was added to Baxter in 2015 for taxes payable in 2016. Total expenditures for the 2016 operating budget went down 22 percent from about $26,000,000 in the 2015 budget to $20,320,000 in the new budget.

Total revenues were up 12 percent, from about $15,580,000 in 2015 to about $17,370,000 in 2016.

Unlike many other Minnesota cities, Baxter does not receive any Local Government Aid, a funding mechanism from the the state of Minnesota designed to help lower local property taxes.

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City issues bonds

The council also voted to issue and sell $8.53 million in general obligation bonds to Robert W. Baird & Co., a financial services firm headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis. The bonds have a 2 percent interest rate and a .5 percent yield. Bonds are essentially debt the city enters into, but the debt itself can be sold as a commodity.

Police land state sex trafficking grant

Council members congratulated the Baxter Police Department for securing a $46,000 grant from the state Office of Justice Programs over the next two years to go toward the BPD's ongoing efforts to combat sex trafficking in the city. On Nov. 16, Baxter police found out they were one of six agencies statewide to receive grants. The new grant will help cover overtime, equipment and training for sex trafficking investigations.

Staff to look into quiet railroad crossing

At a work session before the regular meeting, the council discussed train noise from BNSF trains going through town, following resident complaints.

Baxter police chief Jim Exsted said "it would be very difficult" to enforce noise standards for trains going through town.

Councilor Todd Holman said the best option would be to look into a quiet crossing for trains to not use their horns. Councilor Quinn Nystrom was curious if the railroad company would be interested in a quiet crossing, and who the point of contact would be with BNSF.

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"Is there an open dialogue we could have with them?" she asked.

Mayor Darrel Olson said in his experience, people have to stop conversations while trains go by because the noise is so loud.

City Administrator Gordon Heitke said the silent crossing was not in the 5-year capital improvement plan, but city staff would look into the costs of putting one in.

ZACH KAYSER may be reached at 218-855-5860 or Zach.Kayser@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ZWKayser .

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