Planned 2019 purchase of $50K grass sweeper for Parks & Rec deferred

    As discussions among City of Crookston staff, city council members and Mayor Wayne Melbye continued in recent months leading up to the adoption later this month of a final budget and levy for 2019, the preliminary levy increase put on the table for the coming year was 7.5 percent.

    But now it’s looking like the 2019 levy increase will be more in the 5 percent range, thanks to what City Administrator Shannon Stassen and City Finance Director Angel Weasner say is a growth rate in the City’s tax base in 2018 that is “significantly less” than staff was anticipating. Stassen indicated that tax capacity information provided to the City by Polk County shows the tax base this year grew by less than $34,000. Stassen and Weasner, when crafting the 2019 budget and levy for the council to consider, were factoring in more growth.

    But, instead of leaving the 2019 budget as is and potentially looking at a levy increase greater than 7.5 percent, Stassen and Weasner are recommending that a $50,000 grass sweeper that was projected as a capital expense for the Parks & Recreation Department in 2019 be put off until later.

    Weasner projects that, with a 5 percent levy increase in 2019, the owner of a $150,000 home would see a $34 increase on the City share of their property taxes.

    Parks & Recreation Supervisor Scott Butt said a grass sweeper sweeps up grass on ball fields after it’s cut so the dead grass doesn’t lay on top of the cut grass.

    At Large Council Member Bob Quanrud said he’s not necessarily a fan of raiding the Parks & Recreation budget to find cost savings in 2019. “It seems like we always take from the Park Department,” he said.

    To that, Weasner notes that the Parks & Rec Department is the largest department that the City levies for. Local Government Aid from the state, meanwhile, is the primary funder of public safety, she added.

    Asked if she knew what led to an expectation of higher tax base growth in 2018 than actually occurred, or what might have led to the slower-than-expected growth, Weasner said she goes on the data she has available.

    “I was using average historical data to estimate the tax capacity,” she explained. “I cannot explain what the differences may or may not be, as Polk County supplies me with the number based on where they have assessed in the City.”