Lake Elmo City Council approves max levy

Bloyer resigns from finance committee

Lake Elmo City Council members met in another marathon meeting, this one lasting until 1 a.m.

There were lengthy, and at times heated, discussions on many agenda items up for a vote Tuesday, Sept. 15. When it came time to approve a preliminary property-tax levy for 2016, however, conversation on the matter was relatively brief.

In a 4-1 vote, council members approved a $3,633,898 maximum property-tax levy for next year, which represents a $204,000 or nearly 1.6 percent increase over 2015.

Council member Justin Bloyer cast the sole dissenting vote.

Not-to-exceed levy

The preliminary property-tax levy is a "not-to-exceed" levy. The actual levy cannot surpass that amount when council members approve a final levy and budget in December, but they can lower it.

"In summary, the levy presented would increase a grand total of $204,000. As far as impacting the taxpayers, that would be approximately $60 per year for the average home as is, but again it's the max levy certification, so it's anticipated that it would go down, but it cannot go up," finance director Cathy Bendel told the council.

The proposed $3.64 million total levy includes three components: a general fund levy of $2,712,400, a $664,541 G.O (general obligation bond) debt levy, and a library levy of $256,957.

Council member Julie Fliflet, who chairs the city's finance committee and is a certified public accountant, said city leaders should continue to look at the budget and find ways to decrease the amount of the final levy.

"This isn't the levy I would personally support, but it's what I think is the right thing to do at this stage in the process. ... I think [the tax levy] should come down, and I think we have ample opportunity within the budget to do that," she said. "I don't know what the rest of the council will feel like on that, but I'm sure it will be good discussion when we get to that point."

Mayor Mike Pearson suggested the council schedule at least one workshop to go over budget details.

A truth-in-taxation hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 1, at City Hall and is open to the public. Lake Elmo City Hall is located at 3800 Laverne Ave. N.

'Financial errors'

Bloyer also was a member of the city's finance committee and during the meeting announced he was resigning from the position, stating he no longer felt he could be an asset.

"I won't put my name on any financial documents from the city, because I don't trust the numbers," Bloyer told the Review in a later interview.

Bloyer alleged Bendel was withholding financial documents that should be provided to all the city council members. He also believes the documents contain financial errors.

He said if the documents were not made available by the end of the day, Monday, Sept. 21, the matter would likely end up in court.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached or 651-748-7822.


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