A couple of Isanti residents questioned the city’s portion of their property tax statements and asked the city to make the budget easier to understand during citizens input of the Nov. 19 City Council meeting.

Resident Jeff Duncan told the council he was surprised to see a 23% increase in the city’s portion of his property tax statement.

“I know numbers aren’t finalized yet and truth and taxation isn’t until Dec. 3, I believe, so hopefully some pencils can be sharpened and you guys can do a little bit more work on that budget and try to get numbers pulled down to where the citizens aren’t having to choke down that big of an increase,” Duncan said.

Duncan said with significant reductions in debt payments for the city and with a broader tax base with more commercial properties coming online, he couldn’t understand why residential properties would see that substantial of an increase with their property taxes.

“I would hope that when the final budget comes out it’s nowhere near that high with that big of an impact to our property taxes,” Duncan said.

Finance Director Mike Betker said he would be happy to look at Duncan’s property tax statement to make sure everything he’s looking at is accurate.

“Otherwise the preliminary budget had the city tax rate going up 9.8% and now with some revisions we’ve discussed at the committee of the whole meeting, now we’re looking at 3.8%,” Betker said.

“In my eyes, even as a taxpayer in the city, 3.8 is hugely better than 9.8,” Mayor Jeff Johnson said. “We’ve already talked a bit on that already. I don’t want to raise taxes, I do not, but my hands are kind of tied for the situation in the boat that I was left in to float. But we will do our due diligence, sir.”

Betker reminded the public that each March property owners get their property tax valuations, and if a property owner rejects their assessment valuation, the time to reach out to the county to challenge that valuation is in April.

Resident George Hemen asked the city to make the budget more user-friendly.

“The budget that we get in our council packets are really hard to understand. I’ve looked at other cities and you guys are always talking about up keeping up with the times, modernizing your city, and one of the first best steps you can take for transparency is to redo the way the budget is transmitted to the public for them to look at colored graphs, pie charts, there are tons of examples,” Hemen said. “You can look at cities all across the United States that are the same size as the city of Isanti and you’ll see a lot them really got their act together as far as showing how the budget is spent.

“I think it needs to be better organized, not only for the public but even for you as council members to be able to interpret it quicker and more efficiently and have a better grasp on where your dollars are going,” Hemen added.

Betker said he’s currently working on making the budget book easier to understand.

“I agree with Mr. Hemen entirely. The budget book that I inherited I didn’t think was particularly good,” Betker said. “Currently I’m working on revising the budget book itself. I’m currently working inside of two budget books until I can get the second one, which is a little easier to read, I believe, put together. I think graphs and charts would be great. I’d like to have a standard set of visual presentations that are carried forward year after year after year after year.”

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