By Andrew Richter
I’d like to share a column written by Crystal Mayor Jim Adams on the financing of Crystal’s Public Works Building;
Several years ago the City Council and staff began planning for the replacement of the existing Public Works facility on 41st and Brunswick, which dates back to the 1950s, before Crystal even became a city, and was badly in need of replacement.
In 2013 the council and city staff began discussions about specific plans for replacing the building, and had many debates about the best way to pay for it. The debate boiled down to that one side wanted to use existing cash assets to pay for the building, while the other wanted to borrow money. At a simplified level, it was essentially the difference between using money in our savings account or putting the building on our credit card and paying finance charges.
I was on the side of using cash to pay for the building, because that way the taxpayers would be getting something tangible (bricks and mortar) for their investment instead of having to put taxpayer money into interest payments.
In municipal accounting, all of the city’s cash assets are put into one bank account, and then split up into various “funds,” that exist only in our accounting software and are used to help city management plan for the future and manage the city. All of the money in the bank account belongs to the citizens of Crystal, and sometimes it becomes necessary to shift money from one fund to another as needs arise.
Earlier this year the City Council voted 6-1 to use $13.5 million in cash to pay for the new public works building. About $10 million was money that was saved up in a major building replacement fund, and this was the primary funding for the new building. The remainder of the balance came from other city funds (moving taxpayer dollars from one paper account to another).
After all obligations for the public works facility are met, the city will still have roughly $42 million in our bank account divided up among the various funds. The council also has a preliminary plan in place to rebuild the major building fund going forward. We will be voting on that plan later this year.
What? $42 million? You mean everything isn’t bankrupt like the false claims by ReNae Bowman supporters?
Unfortunately we live in a city that has an aging infrastructure, and this won’t be the last building we have to replace. We’ll also have to address our aging water and sewer pipes, roads, and other infrastructure. My commitment is that I will always make fiscally sound decisions that balance our needs for today with the needs of tomorrow, while avoiding unnecessary borrowing expense.
In other words, we shouldn’t borrow and charge the taxpayers interest unless it is absolutely necessary.
Don’t look for this logic to make its way into the minds of the people who hate Mayor Adams and this new council, though. For them hatred will reign.
By The NumbersGuy (Ron Stoffel)
Robbinsdale Area School District #281 (RAS) has created and is continuing to cause overcrowded schools by mismanaging non-resident student populations in most district schools. An example at Plymouth Middle School (PMS), which is one of the schools used to require the $30+ million expansion plan, the 14-15 year percentage of non-resident students to total students is about 8%. Under Minnesota Statute 124D.03, district is required to have at least 1% of total student population by grade by school be made up of non-resident students. Therefore, PMS has 7 times the number of non-resident students required by law!!! RAS total District wide non-resident population is over 12%.
If the district properly managed its non-resident student population at PMS and throughout the District, there would be NO NEED to spend over $30 million in capital and over $1.2 million in annual operating costs!!
The District has said that it has taken over 20 months to review all options for addressing overcrowded schools, have they considered reducing non-resident student population. If not why not??
I believe this is a COMPLETELY self-inflicted problem that must be fixed without spending over $30 million in capital and $1.2 million in annual operating costs. Over $30 million in capital costs must be COMPLETELY paid for by District #281 residents, not non-resident student families!!
Please contact RAS School Board and Administration to ask why THEY have caused this problem??
By Andrew Richter
Hold on to your wallets Brooklyn Park;
Faced with prematurely deteriorating city streets and an estimated $35 million repair bill, members of the Brooklyn Park City Council have voiced support for using utility franchise fees to fund a 14-year street repair plan. The franchise fees, imposed upon utility companies that use city right-of-way areas for their services and passed along to utility users, was a discussion topic at the Aug. 24 city council meeting. No action was taken, but it could come in a matter of weeks, according to Dan Ruiz, city operations and maintenance director. City officials and professors from the University of Minnesota Humphrey School, who are studying the city’s community engagement efforts, conducted two public meetings in July and August on the street repairs and franchise fees, Ruiz said in his presentation to the council. Most of those residents who attended support using the franchise fees under the condition that residents currently paying a street assessment would be rebated the fee.
The city has been working on finding a street funding solution since last fall. The problem is that the asphalt on approximately 75 percent of the city’s streets is prematurely deteriorating, likely because MnDOT changed the recommended specifications in the late 1980s and early 1990s to lower the oil content of the asphalt mix. Because of rapid expansion of the city during that time period, the city has more miles of deteriorating streets than other communities.
Ruiz said the 14-year plan would have 10 to 15 miles of street milled and overlaid with a top new wear course each year. The city’s seven street districts would be gone through twice during the plan. The repair of 205 miles of streets, at a cost of $170,000 per mile, equals about $35 million. In addition, the city has 7 miles of streets in the southwest part of the city that need to be fully reconstructed, at a cost of $2.5 million a mile. The full reconstruction includes new street, curb and gutter, storm sewer and lighting, along with some replacement of the water mains.
The franchise fees discussion includes three options, including a $7 monthly fee per household and a $7 to $100 monthly fee for businesses and organizations, tiered so smaller businesses pay less and larger businesses pay more. This fee would generate enough revenue to fund the overlay portion of the street repairs. The second option is a $14 per month fee for households and a $14 to $200 tiered fee structure for businesses and organizations. This option would generate enough revenue to fund both the overlay and reconstruction work.
$200 a month!
Finally, adding another $1 to the either fee could fund improvements to sidewalks and trails. One of the benefits of instituting the franchise fee is that residents wouldn’t be assessed for street repairs, Ruiz said. Another benefit is that the city wouldn’t have to bond for the repairs.
No sidewalks and trails!
Several council members voiced support for a sunset clause that would end the fees when the streets are fixed. “The long and short of it is that we have to do something,” Councilmember Peter Crema said, voicing support for the $14 option for overlays and reconstruction, and for a planned end to the fees. “I want this to go away as soon as the problem does.” Mayor Jeff Lunde noted that he would prefer collecting the fees until the streets are improved, not for a set number of years. That way, there is no chance that some streets wouldn’t get fixed before time ran out on the fee collection. “The only way we can do this is to guarantee that everybody’s (streets) get done,” he said. The city needs to recognize that the system will not be fair, Councilmember Mike Trepanier said, because some residents have paid assessments and others will just pay the monthly franchise fee. “No matter what we do, it is not going to be 100 percent fair,” Trepanier said.
I caution people to not be fooled by a sunset clause. When does government ever close a revenue stream? They just find another use for the money.
Council members also concern that the fee would put hardship on low- or fixed-income residents.
“This could make the difference between bread, milk or medicine for them,” Terry Parks noted.
Trepanier advocated for finding a way to help those on fixed incomes. Councilmember Bob Mata suggested that those receiving energy assistance wouldn’t have to pay the fee. “If they are getting help to pay their electric and gas bills, they don’t have money to pay this,” he said. Councilmember John Jordan also expressed concern about fixed-income residents and for the financial impact on churches and nonprofits.
“Churches are made up of people – they are paying the bills through their donations,” he said, asking Ruiz for a sampling of the fees that five to seven houses of worship would pay under the plan. “That cost is an additional burden on our residents.” Jordan also voiced angst about the fact that MnDOT’s specifications created the problem and that the state hasn’t borne the weight of fixing the problem by bonding for the repairs. “I don’t want to do this,” Jordan said. “This is crisis situation. It wasn’t our fault. It was foisted upon us.” Trepanier advocated for action by the council on an as-soon-as-possible basis, to get the city going on the repair plan.
“I personally don’t want the city to go into another construction season without this,” he said. If city officials decide to pursue the franchise fees, an ordinance change would be required, along with notification to utilities and filing with the State Public Utilities Commission. Ruiz noted that, at the earliest, the franchise fee plans could be implemented in January, with the first potential revenue received in April.
As if that’s not bad enough, check out their budget proposal;
Preliminary estimates of the 2016 city budget for Brooklyn Park have several City Council members concerned about the rising tax burden on citizens. During the Sept. 8 work session meeting, Alan Rolek, city finance director, and Jay Stroebel, city manager, presented information about the 2015 and 2016 budgets. The amended 2015 city budget, the current budget, is $43.7 million with a $34.7 million general fund tax levy, according to their presentation. The original 2016 forecast was for the city budget to be $45.8 million with a $37.1 million general fund levy. As city officials and leaders work through the process, the preliminary budget for 2016 appears that it could be $48.5 million, with a $38.9 million general fund levy.
Oh my God! This is outrageous!
City leaders cannot pass on a $5 million budget increase and also ask residents to pay monthly franchise fees to fix city streets, Councilmember Peter Crema stressed.
“We have to figure this out,” he said, noting that he was proud of the city for not passing on tax increases to about half of the residents over the past six years. “I can’t see that continuing with these scenarios.” The city’s increase in taxes, combined with tax increases from the county and school district, are more than some residents will be able to manage on their budgets, Councilmember Bob Mata said. “We are talking about percentages, they are talking about food on the table, and they are talking about the medicine they need,” he said. Stroebel noted that information he’s received from county officials indicates other cities in Hennepin County are considering 5 to 7 percent increases this year. “Plymouth, Bloomington and Edina, they can afford that kind of increase,” Mata said. “We can’t afford that.”
Like John Fogerty said “All they want is more, more, more!
The council must approve a preliminary levy by the end of September and a final levy by the end of December. The preliminary levy amount can be reduced, but cannot be increased at the final approval. City leaders have followed a pattern, setting the levy at the maximum allowed and then worked on the budget to bring the tax burden and budget down, Councilmember Rich Gates reminded the group.
“I don’t want to handcuff us (to a lower number),” Gates said. “I do want to handcuff us,” Councilmember John Jordan said, adding that he voted for one maximum preliminary levy and it was used against him. He also noted that he trusts Stroebel, the new city manager, to work on the city’s fiscal management. One of the many factors in the budget is how the city uses local government aid from the state, funding that has fluctuated higher and lower, depending on the state’s financial condition. Several of the council members wondered how the city can make changes to not rely on LGA funds, because of that fluctuation and the possibility of the state eliminating the funding.
The only way to do that is to do what you won’t do: cut spending!
Several of the budget scenarios presented by Rolek and Stroebel included using LGA to reduce the tax impact. The city expects to receive about $1.2 million in LGA for next year. If the city leaders wish to not use LGA funds to defer tax dollars, then city officials may need time to make the fiscal reviews and decisions on how that change would happen, Rolek noted. Significant drivers in the increased budget include several factors that the city leadership has already decided, Rolek said. They include approximately $150,000 for filling personnel needs that had been delayed into 2015, $1.37 million for various union wage settlements, $639,000 for cost of living and step increases and about $87,000 because of the increase in the minimum wage.
Cost drivers that the city is considering, but hasn’t yet implemented, include raising wages according to the recent compensation study, at an approximate cost of $192,000, upgrading wages and classifications for some employees, at a cost of $134,000 and additional employees and wage increases at $680,000.
Additional employees?? Additional wages?? Upgrading wages?? Where is the discussion about smaller government???? All Brooklyn park seems to be doing is trying to figure out the best way to sluff costs on to the citizens.
By Andrew Richter
We don’t often post about partisan politics, but most people know that I am a conservative or libertarian on most issues and I usually vote for Republican candidates. However, I’ve grown very tired of the Republican Party. They vote for more spending, won’t support education choice, and they NEVER shrink the size of government. And their personal conduct is driving me crazy. Case in point;
It might still be two lawmakers’ word against law enforcement’s. But new information shows state Rep. Tara Mack did a 180-degree turn in the days after she was allegedly caught with her pants down in a colleague’s car.
An email obtained by the Associated Press indicates the Republican from Apple Valley “changed her tune” after details from a reportedly amorous encounter with Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, in an Eagan park. On Aug. 25, the legislators were slapped with nuisance tickets after a deputy sheriff caught the two “making out” in a parked car. According to the ranger’s notes, Mack’s pants were “unzipped and down.”
Honestly, you can’t get a hotel room? Boinking in a parking lot is conduct I’d expect out of two 16 year olds.
When the story broke both legislators, who are married to other people, vehemently denied the accusations, saying the ranger lied in his report.
Typical politicians; every time they get in trouble they deny and then call someone else a liar.
The email, which Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie sent to himself, recapped conversations with Mack suggesting she wasn’t always so appalled. At first, Mack “said she was glad the deputy came along to save her from an uncomfortable situation,” according to Leslie’s account. “She referred to it as divine intervention,” he wrote of his first call with Mack.
Yes, God commanded that police officer to come over at that moment to save you from salvation.
Mack purportedly also asked about “what was public and how this could play out.” Two days after the incident, she apparently learned from a lobbyist that something was lurking in the ranger’s notes. According to his email, Leslie told her they stated her trousers were at half-staff.
“She did not comment other than to say this is very salacious and that she is married to a minister and her career could be ruined,” Leslie reportedly wrote. “I said I understood that but if you are choosing to say that the park ranger lied … I have a big problem.”
Mack also asked if the ranger was sporting a body camera, which he wasn’t, Leslie replied. Neither Mack nor Leslie immediately returned calls seeking comment.
No camera=plausible deniability.
When the incident became public, Mack and Kelly issued statements saying they planned to file complaints. However in a follow-up statement last week, Mack said she wouldn’t file one after all, the AP reports. Both lawmakers have paid their $260 fines.
Can’t file a complaint since the ranger’s comments were true!
Honestly, what kind of conduct is this? What does it say about two people who are married and in our legislature that they thought it was a good idea to do the dirty in a car at a park?
These two should resign. If they don’t, they should be challenged for the endorsement. Unlike the Democrats who have no standards at all for elected officials (remember the James Carville “everybody lies about sex”), Republicans have standards and crap like this hurts not just the party but the entire conservative movement.
The conduct of these two “leaders’ is unacceptable, period!
By Andrew Richter
Former Robbinsdale School Board member Mark Bomchill has been on a rampage lately and his latest column has me all confused…..
I am often asked what regrets I have from my days serving on the board of at Robbinsdale Area Schools. The decision to contract out busing is near the top of the list. My remorse does not come so much from my vote at the table because I am confident, based on the information I had, that I voted what was best for the district and taxpayers. My sorrow is I trusted the information given to me.
Today, I do not believe we had all the facts. SEIU, the bus drivers’ union, continuously made the argument we were missing valuable information. I believed the district negotiators when they said we were not, today I am questioning if that is true.
The Robbinsdale Federation of Teachers complained that information given to the negotiators for the board to see never made it to the board. Once, during negotiations, I was confused by what I was hearing from the district negotiators allegedly coming from the RFT and asked specifically if there was anything that was left out. I was assured that nothing was being held back. One of the negotiators even said, “They think we don’t give you everything, but we do.”
OK hold on here; Mr. Bomchill is making a rather serious charge yet he doesn’t present a single fact to back up his claims. What is this “information” you were denied access to? You can’t make charges like that and not back them up.
By the way, is it a shock to anyone that the SEIU Union is bad mouthing negotiators that are trying to contract out busing and reducing their numbers. Also, who cares what RFT has to say? Why is it it any of their business?
I also think that if Mr. Bomchill feels that he made the right vote on bus contracting at the time with the information that he had, then he has nothing to apologize for.
This school year Robbinsdale Area Schools hired 115 new teachers to the district (about 20 due to absorbing the FAIR teachers) and many more teachers are sending out their resume. As a comparison, the Wayzata district hired 30. Employee morale is very low as evident by the turnover of staff, which is not only costing taxpayers, but the inconsistency has to have a negative effect on student performance. Teachers often feel unheard in district decisions and are repeatedly shown disrespect as evident by their rapid departures. This is information I received when I visited the schools in direct conversations with many teachers.
Hiring new teachers in it of itself is not evidence that morale is low. I thought hiring new teachers is what “lowered class size?” And who knows, maybe these teachers will be better than the ones they replaced! The question that should be asked is WHY is there turnover?
It’s not just the teachers who are struggling and feeling mistreated. Education Assistants and Program Assistants also have a high level of frustration. Both of those groups received the lowest pay increases in the district both in amount of money as well as percentage of increase. Program Assistants did receive an additional step which means those who have been in the district a long time received a pay increase while the rest got a much smaller increase.
OK well if Education Assistants got a poor wage increase isn’t that the fault of their union negotiators? Perhaps Union members should fire them!
What can be done to change the low employee morale?
For starters, one or more school board members should be at every negotiation session as an observer. I brought this up and was told we are sending a message to the negotiators that we do not trust them. While they have proven to not have passed on all the information, it is more to get a tone of the meeting, which would give the board a broader viewpoint in making decisions. Board members should visit schools during school times and talk with the staff.
The Program Assistants deserve to have the same union representation as the teachers and the education assistants. This may be difficult since the Program Assistant category is made up of vastly different job titles ranging from student support to administrative assistants who have been in the district for years, work at the administrative office and hugely benefited financially by the addition of lanes while the rest received a fraction of a pay increase. The Program Assistant position should be divided up into clerical and student support so the hard working men and women on the front lines can get a fair vote on the representation they need and deserve.
The board and administration must take the low employee morale seriously. While salary increases are one way to acknowledge staff, workload and working conditions are a place we can also address morale. Our tax dollar and more importantly, student support and success depend on it.
So let me get this straight; your solution to this problem is to have more union members and throw money at wages and benefits? How many times are we going to try this when it comes to education before we realize this 1950’s public school model just doesn’t work anymore?
Help here….I’m lost!
By Andrew Richter
Well, good old 5-0 New Hope is getting ready fro another tax increase;
The City Council reviewed the 2016 New Hope preliminary budget and tax levy at its work session on August 17. The 2016 preliminary general fund budget is $12,865,300, which is an increase of $798,669 over 2015. The total preliminary tax levy is $10,813,014, which is a $710,847 or 7.04% increase over 2015. The estimated overall impact of the city tax levy on residential properties ranges from $52 to $96 per year for market values between $150,000 and $250,000. The total preliminary tax levy includes $8,898,654 for the general fund, which is an increase of $633,244, or 7.6% over 2015.The preliminary levy also includes 3% increases in both the street and park infrastructure levies to provide additional funding for street and park improvements. And, the city will begin to pay off the debt for City Center streetscape improvements. The major proposed increases in the general fund budget include approximately $435,000 for wage and benefit increases, increases of about $180,000 in central garage equipment replacement and $41,000 in central garage operations, $107,000 to fund a third police investigator, $41,000 to fund elections, and an additional $25,000 for the cityʹs Emerald Ash Borer Program. The city is scheduled to receive $616,161 in local government aid (LGA) in 2016. That revenue will be utilized in the general fund to help offset central garage equipment replacement costs. It will not be used to fund general city operations. The City Council will continue to review the 2016 preliminary budget and plans to approve a maximum tax levy on September 14 that will be certified to Hennepin County. The Council will continue to refine the budget and levy over the next few months. The proposed budget and tax levy will be presented at a public hearing on November 30. The final 2016 budget and tax levy will be adopted in December.
Look at all those new ideas!!! Anyone want to beT this budget passes 5-0??
By Andrew Richter
OK, my friends and enemies; I’m not feeling well so I’m going to be extra mean.
You all who know me know that I believe in small and limited government and no state has more unnecessary than Minnesota. Now, I’ve discussed my dislike of the unconstitutional Met Council, and as much as I can;t stand the Met Council, the Department of Natural resources or DNR is perhaps just as bad or worse.
Just ask the folks over at Mille Lacs Lake;
There was anger, sadness and a bit of resignation Sunday when the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced it was shutting down walleye fishing on Lake Mille Lacs midseason for the first time in history. The cutoff, aimed at protecting a record low walleye population, was 10 p.m. Monday. DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr called it “a dark day for anglers in Minnesota.”
The brunt of anger from Mille Lacs resort owners was directed at Gov. Mark Dayton, state conservation officials and the eight Chippewa bands that have treaty rights dating back to 1837 to share fishing on the lake. “I feel like nobody listened,” said Linda Eno, owner of Twin Pines Resort in Garrison. “I was sitting with some customers when I got the text … they are sick about it, sick. Everybody is disgusted, saddened and sickened.
Ms. Eno maybe you should contribute to the Alliance for a Bitter Minnesota. That might get the governor’s attention.
I’ve already had cancellations, multiple cancellations. I’m hoping that people already booked will be OK with fishing bass and perch.
Ha! I’m sure they will go somewhere else! Never fear though, like all good government bureaucrats, the DNR commissioner “understands.”
“We all understand the gravity of this situation,” Landwehr said. “It’s traumatic for anglers and for those who rely on fishing.”
Wow, how riveting! I know I feel better!
John Odle, owner of Rocky Reef Resort in Onamia, said, “The commissioner needs to resign or quit or be fired … They need to go. The whole system has to be redone.”
Good luck with that!
Now, nothing said here makes any sense here. I fished on Lake Kabetogama last year and caught tons of walleye but I could hardly keep a thing thanks to the dumb DNR slot rules! The walleye population is clearly up yet they don’t change the rules. Also if there are no walleye in Mille Lacs then why not let people fish for them? They shouldn’t catch any if there are none there right? You ever fished a day in your life Mr. Pereira?
To me, the time has come to debate the usefulness of the DNR. They hold tremendous power that affects businesses, sportsman, travelers, and cabin owners and a debate about their power is long overdue. For now, I feel bad for the people on Mille Lacs who are being shut down by government pencil pushers.