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Baxter City Council: Members approve 6.65 percent levy increase

The Baxter City Council convenes during the Tuesday, Dec. 4, meeting. During the meeting, members voted to approve the final draft of the 2019 budget. Gabriel Lagarde / Brainerd Dispatch1 / 2
A pie chart displaying the projected expenditures allocated in the 2019 Baxter city budget. The city of Baxter is projected to take in $16,835,300 for net revenues and spend $16,553,900 for net expenditures, with a surplus of $281,400. Pie chart graphic / City of Baxter2 / 2

BAXTER—The 2019 budget is pretty much set in stone for the coming year, per the unanimous vote of the Baxter City Council Tuesday, Dec. 4.

The 2019 operation and debt service levies will be $6,402,800—a $399,400 increase, or 6.65 percent, over 2018. This represents a $752,800, or 13.32 percent, increase over the last nine years since 2010. Inflation was 16.98 percent during that time.

Much of the the allocations were legalistic in nature—essentially, paying for expenditures associated with everything from upgrading parks to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and property liability insurance costs, to legal fees stemming from the Brainerd Public Utilities annexation case with the city of Brainerd.

Then, of course, there are many eyes—and many dollars—on the bounty of trails throughout the Baxter area, with a number of allocations going to upkeep, repair, expansion, management and other expenditures.

In terms of street repairs, the ongoing projects for Memorywood Drive, Excelsior Road, Fairview Road and North Forestview Drive factor to be significant investments in 2019, along with other infrastructure repairs—such as repavement, coat-sealing—across the city.

The city is setting aside $11,400 for Heartland Animal Rescue Team animal control—a service the city has traditionally backed, Police Chief Jim Exsted has previously said, and a way to free up the 16 officers in the Baxter Police Department, particularly with a new resource office for Forestview Middle School in mind.

In addition, the city is opting to allocate $117,600 for policy body and fleet cameras, as well as a further $42,600 for a K-9 squad car replacement.

The city is also planning to add on 12,000 square feet of storage space to the Public Works Facility. This addition to the site's mezzanine is based in growing congestion and lack of available storage space, Public Works Director Trevor Walter has previously said, which hampers vehicles going in and out.

Coming with a price tag of $105,000, the city also plans to allocate funds for a street snowblower.

Some notes on the 2019 budget:

• For the property tax levy impact—account for average increases in valuation of 1.82 percent and 2.41 percent in residential and commercial/industrial properties respectively.

This breaks down as following:

A $15 tax increase from $234 to $249 for homes with an average value of $76,000.

This means a $41 increase from $789 to $831 for homes with an average value of $175,000, and a $61 increase from $1,210 to $1,271 for residential properties valued at $250,000. This also marks a $265 increase from $4,757 to $5,022 for commercial properties valued at $500,000.

• In terms of revenues and expenditures, the city of Baxter is projected to take in $16,835,300 in net revenues and spend $16,553,900 in net expenditures, with a surplus of $281,400. General fund revenues factor to be $6,485,500 with the same amount planned for expenditures.

• The city of Baxter is starting to reach net tax capacity heights it enjoyed in 2010, sitting at a projected $12,101,546 compared to $12,876,279 nine years ago. It's a gradual rebound after net tax capacity bottomed out at about $10.1 million in 2013 and 2014.

• Of that net tax capacity, 51.5 percent is taken up by homestead residential properties, while 32.1 percent is commercial, apartments makeup 7.9 percent and 5.2 percent is accounted for by non-residential homestead properties and ag/rural properties chip in 1.5 percent. The remainder is accounted for by seasonal recreational resorts at 0.9 percent and manufactured home park land properties, with less than 0.1 percent.

In other business, the council:

Approved the purchase of the Granicus GovMeetings/Novus agenda management software system for a three-year contract—listed at $3,900 a year, plus a 5 percent annual increase, as well as a one-time $1,997.50 set-up fee. The purchase of the program was included in the adopted 2018 budget.

Approved a resolution to pursue Municipal State Aid Street funds for the 2018 Cypress Drive corridor project and the 2018 Excelsior Road projects—valued at $166,984.72, or $65,000 and $101,984.72 respectively. Funded through gas taxes, a portion of the state's MSAS fund revenues are allocated to the city of Baxter's state aid construction account.

Approved a resolution consenting to the transfer of the franchise agreement with Charter Communications after its merger with Spectrum Mid-America. The matter was reviewed by city legal counsel, and the $500 in legal fees will be reimbursed by Charter.

Gabriel Lagarde

Whether it's your local city council, all the way up to the Governor's office, government plays a part in every aspect of your life. It's important that the people you elect reflect your needs, your values and your vision, and that's why I'm out covering the people and issues that matter, because they matter to you. But it takes time and resources to dig deeper than face value, to capture the whole picture and do the due diligence, so consider subscribing to the Brainerd Dispatch. Your news. Your reporter. Your paper.  To help support local journalism, click here to sign up to receive a Dispatch digital subscription to our e-edition or to receive the printed paper at your door, or to get both.

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