4/4/2013 1:45:00 PM Good news for
Chisago City finances
by PAUL RIGNELL
by PAUL RIGNELL CORRESPONDENT Chisago City Council members received good news March 26 from Brad Falteysek, senior associate with auditing firm Abdo, Eick and Meyers, with a report that the city ended 2012 with a healthier fund balance reducing its debt ratio as well as its reliance on property taxes for funding city business.
The city’s debt ratio fell from 30 to 26 percent since 2009, meaning that equity in the city’s assets has risen accordingly. Compared with the auditing firm’s other Minnesota clients plus other cities with populations between 2,500 and 10,000, Falteysek said Chisago is below average debt ratio (which was 33 percent at the close of 2011) while also taxing less than the average per capita ($404 vs. $500) and spending less ($364 vs. $640).
Property taxes funded 81 percent of Chisago’s revenues in 2012, but that slice of pie equaled 84 percent in 2010, Falteysek said. Chisago ended last year with a fund balance of $739,857, nearly $110,000 more than the fund balance ending 2011, but more importantly for financial health in the year to come, Falteysek added, the 2012 ending fund balance rose back above 40 percent of that year’s general fund budget. The city had budgeted $1.69 million in 2012, and ended with a fund balance of 43.7 percent. Chisago budgeted $1.62 million in 2011, of which the ending fund balance equaled just 38.8 percent. Cities should never end a year with a fund balance equaling more than half of an annual budget, the auditing firm suggests, but a healthy fund balance helps to cover bills through the winter and spring months before a city receives the first of its two lump tax payments from the county for the year in June.
Falteysek noted that most cities have been tasked with tightening management as previous aid from state tax dollars has dried up considerably or completely. “You are managing your budget well, and sticking to it,” he told the Chisago council. The city came within $95 of meeting its 12-month budget of nearly $1.7 million for 2012. City Administrator John Pechman said such differences often come from an unpredictable increase in gas prices or snow removal costs. “There are certain things we have little control over,” he said.
Other city business Council agreed to schedule an open house for 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 8, where residents of the Surfland neighborhood (including Lakeview Road, Hillcrest Drive and Interlachen Road) may visit City Hall to share thoughts on a proposal to rebuild their roads and curbing in 2013. Staff reported that the existing curbs, in particular, generally may not hold up another year. Staff has estimated costs of $340,000 for rebuilding the roads and curbs, and the city has funds for covering part of a project. Council discussed a subsidy or share of 10 percent at the March 26 meeting. Though the city assessed property owners by the lot for its most recent neighborhood road project, a paving of Kismet Isle (formerly gravel) in 2012, council members last week did discuss an idea of assessing the Surfland properties based on front footage. But they left that meeting and will enter next week’s open house with a plan to propose assessments per lot. Mayor Bob Gustafson said that in a fully developed area such as that neighborhood, he could not see a great difference in value between an 80-foot lot and a 100- or 110-foot lot. “I think (assessing) by lot makes a whole lot more sense,” he said. There are 63 residential lots in Surfland to divide a bill.
– Council authorized staff to negotiate with the city of Lindstrom on a potential purchase of a 2002 dump truck that Lindstrom is planning to replace. Chisago’s Public Works Department has suggested not buying the equipment to replace part of its fleet, but rather add the vehicle to have a fleet of four plows that could increase service time next winter. The Chisago council also agreed to a tentative meeting the morning of Saturday, May 4, with officials from Lindstrom and Center City, possibly at the Chisago Lakes Library, where they will continue work in bringing their respective zoning codes closer to uniformity.