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Council gets 2021 levy increase down to 4%

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    They started at 6 earlier this fall, with a goal to go to 5, and in the end the Crookston City Council is poised at their next meeting in December to approve a 2021 budget with a City property tax levy increase of 4%.

    With the City’s tax base continuing to grow, a 1% levy increase now generates approximately $22,000. So, on the flip side, it takes $22,000 removed from the budget to decrease the levy 1%. So what the council did this week to get from a 5% increase to a 4% increase next year was take $22,000 out of $25,000 that until this week was in the 2021 budget. The funds were officially undesignated, but the idea from previous budget discussions was to potentially invest the money in marketing the Crookston community. But council members agreed with Ward 1’s Jake Fee and At Large Council Member Tom Vedbraaten, who cited the fact that the Chamber of Commerce and Crookston Visitors Bureau already market the community. They also cited the COVID-19 pandemic and how much people are struggling as a result of that, and the fact that the latest Polk County land valuation data indicate an increase of market values of local homes, which will coincide with a property tax increase on its own.

    “I really think with this COVID stuff and people trying to keep businesses open and keep jobs, we need to keep (the levy increase) as low as possible,” Vedbraaten said. “…I think we have to do our part, I really do.”

    Fee actually proposed lowering the 2021 levy increase to 3%, which would have required taking $14,000 out of the City’s reserve/undesignated account, which currently sits at a fraction over $2 million. But other council members shied away from that option, citing a pattern in recent years of dipping into reserves to balance the City budget. They liked the idea of leaving reserve funds alone this time around.

    “Taking out of reserves, that’s just kicking the can down the road,” Mayor Dale Stainbrook noted.

    “We were at 6 and agreed to go to 5; if we get to 4 with no reserves, I think every taxpayer out there would be happy with that,” added Ward 2 Council Member Steve Erickson.