The Isanti City Council approved its 2021 budget and levy during its Dec. 1 meeting.

Finance Director Mike Betker explained the proposed final property tax levy is set at $3 million and reflects an increase in the taxable market value for 2021 of 12.03%.

He explained the proposed final property tax rate is 61.18%, the same as it was in 2020, and a decrease of 28.18% from the 2017 tax rate of 85.93%. The 15-year average tax rate from 2006 through 2020 is 67.63%.

Betker mentioned highlights of the budget include general fund expenditures that have been adjusted based on prior year actual costs, current year expenditures through October, actual maintenance agreements and contracted costs. All wages include a 3% cost of living adjustment for 2021 and include the necessary step increases, where applicable. Dental insurance, worker’s compensation, property/liability/volunteer insurance and life/AD&D insurance have all been adjusted to reflect premiums paid in 2020 and any necessary inflationary factor was applied. Health insurance premiums increased, depending on plan structure, between 13.6% and 14.3%.

The general fund expenditures total $4 million. The largest expenditures include $1.7 million for police administration; $561,411 for financial administration; $382,948 for highways, streets and roads; $371,307 for parks, recreation and culture; $257,990 for fire protection; $192,707 for building inspection administration; and $150,093 for planning and zoning.

The 2021 levy was set at $3 million, a slight increase from the $2.7 million levy set in 2020. The 2021 levy includes $1.9 million for the general fund; $438,700 for capital maintenance; $286,500 for street construction; $86,201 for Economic Development Authority; $13,432 for abatement levy; $9,367 for 2011 general obligation improvement bond; $222,036 for 2014 general obligation tax abatement bond; and $50,227 for 2014 general obligation improvement bond.

Liquor store construction project

The council continued a discussion from its Nov. 17 meeting regarding the liquor store construction project. The city has purchased two parcels of land to build a new municipal liquor store just to the east of the O’Reilly Auto Parts store.

At its Nov. 17 meeting, council members had several questions relating to a liquor store engineering and architectural services proposal it received from Brunton Architects and Engineers and wanted more information.

Council Member Steve Lundeen said until the COVID-19 pandemic is resolved, the city will have issues receiving materials since the manufacturing facilities aren’t in operation right now since they can’t operate safely, with social distancing standards.

Lundeen also questioned the $192,000 professional fee that Brunton Architects is proposing. The $192,000 fee includes pre-design cost estimating, architectural, interior design, mechanical, plumbing, fire sprinkling, structural and electrical design engineering.

Following a lengthy discussion, the council decided to seek a second opinion from another architectural firm regarding the entire construction process and what their estimated fees would be. City Engineer Jason Cook said he will set up a similar meeting with a different architectural firm to gauge a second opinion.

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