The City of Crookston welcomes feedback and works to be responsive to the needs and wants of our residents, visitors and businesses. Please feel free to contact Mayor Melbye, your Council representative or City Administrator to share your thoughts.

The City of Crookston is well positioned financially due to careful and thoughtful planning by City Council members and City Staff working together. Well positioned does not mean flush with cash however. It is good practice to have operating cash on hand to cover 6-8 months of expenses. According to this recommendation by the State of Minnesota Auditors office, Crookston is in good shape. The City has also paid nearly all of its debt over the past couple of years. These two factors contribute to The City of Crookston receiving an AAA Bond rating which will reduce interest rates for any future borrowing needs. The City of Crookston is well positioned.

Finance Director, Angel Weasner was asked to report on the financial status of the City of Crookston at the beginning of the budgeting process. This is vital information for the Council members as they review and approve recommendations from City staff on the upcoming years’ expenditures.

A couple items from that meeting need to be clarified as they were called into question recently:

The City cannot extend the Special Service District Flood Control Fee beyond its 20 year term. No one from City Staff or City Council proposed extending that fee; it is not legal to do so.

Borrowing funds from the Flood Control Fund was never proposed. These funds are restricted and cannot and will not be accessed for anything other than qualifying Flood Control related expenses.

Enterprise Funds (Water and Sewer) are accessible for other uses by the City. They have in fact been used in the past for a variety of expenses deemed important to the City of Crookston. These funds should however, be used with the intent of replenishing the funds. It is an acceptable practice to borrow from Enterprise Funds but caution should be used to assure that adequate balances exist for large infrastructure expenses.

Other funds exist such as Municipal Land and Building, Burlington Northern which can be accessed to provide funding to ourselves or outside entities for the greater good of Crookston.

Having said this, it is important to note that Crookston relies heavily on Local Government Aid (LGA) to provide services to the community. Approximately 66% of the City’s expenditures are derived from LGA. Public Safety, Police and Fire protection are funded nearly exclusively by LGA. We realize that it would be impossible to fund these essential services without LGA and therefore we are careful to spend it wisely and make sure The City of Crookston is fiscally responsible in other areas as well.

The City is also very diligent in planning for future needs by using a five year Capital Improvement Plan to guide decisions for equipment and facility needs. Department Heads carefully track the age and condition of our physical assets and prioritize replacement and upgrades. Over the past 4 years The City has reconditioned both water towers and repainted one, replaced our Aerial Firetruck, begun replacing water meters, replaced several vehicles and many other critical needs. It is safe to say that the City of Crookston gets full use out of equipment because of proper maintenance and willingness to use decades’ old equipment when it is still feasible.

Through this conservative and responsible approach, we are able to keep City fees and taxes in check. For instance, a 2016 survey of Water/ Waste water fees shows that the City of Crookston has one of the lowest rates in Minnesota as well as the entire Midwest survey area. Savings per year to each household compared with our comparable, neighboring cities shows that Crookston residents save hundreds of dollars annually in comparison to other regional cities.

The City of Crookston has also been active in supporting economic development by investing in additional infrastructure and providing loans, land and other incentives. Well over $1 million has been invested in the past 4 years to grow our tax base and provide housing opportunities. Additionally, the City provides $130,000 stipend annually to Crookston Housing and Economic Development Authority to support its operations.

The City of Crookston has actively sought grants and been very successful over the past 4 years. Over $1.3 million in grant funding has been secured by City Staff or on behalf of the City by partner agencies and local advocacy groups. Crookston is truly amazing in the way the residents rally around a project they care about. The result has been grant funding for Downtown improvements through the Small Cities Development Grant Program, the Fairfax Trail, Childcare incentive, GreenStep City, two new electric zamboni’s, Rotary benches, improvements at Castle Park and others. Citizen Fundraising and grants bought the city a new sports floor, Splash Pad, Lions Mobile Event Stage to name a few. Other large grant opportunities are currently pending. The City has also partnered with the Crookston Firefighters Association to establish a North Fire Station to reduce response times and improve safety.

City Council Members are very cautious about tax increases. Over a four year period from 2013 through 2016 City portion of taxes on most homes actually were reduced in spite of cost of living increases and needed investments.

The Crookston community has consistently shared its wishes for improved community amenities through survey’s, community forums and individual conversations. A few items continually rise to the top in these surveys:

Downtown Redevelopment

Outdoor Swimming Pool

Increased walking and biking trails

Bowling Alley

Increased River Activities

By being positioned well financially, the City Council has an opportunity to invest in Community Assets that will retain and attract people and businesses. Crookston is a great place to live already. Continuing to add important amenities creates an environment that supports economic prosperity.

Several mechanisms exist for funding these types of projects. We can borrow externally, we can borrow from qualifying internal funds or we can pay cash from reserves without a payback. The most responsible way seems to include a plan to payback internal reserves. We do not know what future needs may arise and today’s fund balance will not be adequate to cover expenses decades in the future because of inflation. So, in order to payback these investments over time, we must plan to raise the City levy responsibly and cover our debt payments. This can be done with minimal impact felt over a long period of time and allow Crookston to improve by offering amenities that people crave.

The City of Crookston welcomes feedback and works to be responsive to the needs and wants of our residents, visitors and businesses. Please feel free to contact Mayor Melbye, your Council representative or City Administrator to share your thoughts.

Mayor Wayne Melbye

City Administrator Shannon Stassen