Residents of Dayton will vote Tuesday, Nov. 3, in the election to fill three positions on the city council. The three positions include the position of mayor (two-year term) and two city council positions (four-year terms).

Current councilors Dennis Fisher and Jonathan Mellberg are running for the mayor’s seat.

Candidates for the four-year city council terms are David Fashant, Travis Henderson, Troy Okerlund, and Scott Salonek.

The candidates were asked to include their thoughts in statements. Each were asked to include a short biography of themselves and their backgrounds as well as their personal and professional experiences. They were also asked to comment on two questions that were asked. (See questions belows in each statement).

The responses received include:

MAYOR

Dennis Fisher

Biographical information:

Address: 13691 Pineview Lane N. Dayton MN 55327

Education: Biomedical, Software, and Electrical Engineering Degrees

Occupation: Electrical Engineer for Medtronic

Community Involvement: Dayton resident for 45 years, 6 years in active/guard Air Force, Dayton Lions, CDAA, Horse Association, Public Safety, Parks, Comp Plan, and various other commissions. Currently a city council member.

Contact information: DennisFisherDaytonMN@gmail.com

Questions for city council candidates:

1. What adjustments, if any, should be made to the city’s budget?

Our budget process encourages over spending. We have lots of development and most of that revenue is automatically spent. The focus is “How much can we spend?” rather than “What do we need?”

We currently have a long-term plan that allows scheduling significant expenses out to 10 years. It is beneficial to keep large items in mind as next year’s budget is created, but we need to apply more scrutiny to the need, timing, and scope of those items as they get closer.

2. What are you plans for the city taxes for residents?

Our per capita tax has grown significantly in the past 4 years. You will hear the claim that the council is reducing taxes, but they’re not. They’re reducing the rate, which does not mean you’ll pay less. What you pay is proportional to the rate multiplied by the property value. For most residents this means, even if the “rate” goes down, the amount paid to the city goes up. Additionally, the “rate” does not include two recently added large taxes; Dayton Economic Development Authority tax and the Franchise Fee. If included, both the rate and the amount you pay has increased from four years ago.

Within the last two budgets, debts (4% and 2%) have been removed from taxes, yet the council managed to fill those reductions with new spending. So, this year’s 23% increase in taxes was due to 27% new spending.

More homes result in more expenditures, but those homes should reduce the average cost per home (total taxes should grow slower than the number of homes). If we can’t limit taxes with the new home revenue, what makes people think new interchange revenue will be any different?

We need a change in thinking. My plan is simple; Scrutinize spending and move more new revenue to limiting taxes.

Jonathan Mellberg

Biographical information:

Address: 12011 Noon Drive Dayton, MN 55327

Education: High School

Occupation: Underwriter with NewRez Mortgage

Community involvement: City Council member, Lions Member, former Parks Commissioner

Questions for city council candidates:

1. What adjustments, if any, should be made to the city’s budget?

We should continue striving to be as efficient with tax dollars as possible, but we cannot “cut” our way to a better Dayton.

2. What are you plans for the city taxes for residents?

The opening of the new I-94 Interchange will have a great impact on Dayton and will finally bring the opportunity of huge economic growth of new industrial, commercial and retail users.

COUNCIL

David Fashant

Biographical information:

Address: Dayton River Road, Dayton

Occupation: Healthcare Facilities Management (retired)

Community Involvement: Chair of Dayton Parks Commission; Dayton Public Safety Commission; Minnesota Healthcare Engineers Association

Contact Information: Website: www.davidfashant.org Email: davidfashant@gmail.com

Questions for city council candidates:

1. What adjustments, if any, should be made to the city’s budget?

In my opinion, the next City Council will need to work respectfully, collaboratively, and creatively with City Staff to trim the budget.

If I am elected, I will bring the leadership and budget management experience necessary to seek out common-sense cost reductions. For example, an employed City Engineer may be justified. Currently the city contracts for a licensed Civil Engineer charged at an hourly rate, working a full-time schedule. Bringing this position in-house could lower the cost of this service by 50%. Purchased services contracts, such as engineering and inspection services, should also be reviewed for performance and cost savings potential.

The council must also review the timing of many line items on the 10 year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) including both the Stephens Park funding and the 3rd Fire Station plans.

2. What are you plans for the city taxes for residents?

Tax rates seem headed in the right direction, yet Dayton is still one of the highest-taxed cities in the metro area. In my opinion, our current budget relies too heavily on residential development to support current bond payments. The emphasis should shift to commercial development along the Dayton Parkway Interchange.

A better balance of commercial-to-residential development will help create a stable tax base, lower taxes for residents, and help preserve our rural character in other areas of the city. Also, the use of franchise fees hides the true tax rate for basic city services such as public safety, fire, and roads. For example, 30% of the Pavement Management (roads) budget comes from the franchise fee and the other 70% from property taxes.

Road maintenance is a basic city responsibility and we should look for meaningful cost savings elsewhere in the budget so that our road maintenance can be supported by regular property taxes, not as an additional surcharge on our utility bills.

Troy Okerlund

Biographical information:

Address:  13000 Oakview Lane North Dayton

Education: Bachelor’s Degree

Occupation: Senior Investigator for the State of Minnesota

Community involvement: I worked as a Police Officer, EMT and Volunteer firefighter. I am a certified DNR ATV and Snowmobile instructor and I work with a few veterans groups.

Contact information: OkerlundForDayton.com

Questions for city council candidates:

1. What adjustments, if any, should be made to the city’s budget?

Dayton has more large expenses coming up to include third fire station and a second water tower. I have spoken about these in great detail as to how this should be approached on my website. The answer is multifaceted and complex, boiling it down to a few words the plan is to decrease unnecessary spending without negatively impacting current services. Increase revenue without raising taxes.

This can be accomplished by ending for profit contracts by providing services in-house that has the added side effect of better customer service. Adding an economic development director and grant writer whose purpose is to design and bring in desirable high profit commercial and aid our current commercial with knowledge and County, State, Federal, and private grant money.  

I also plan to keep Dayton rural while the city continues to grow.

2. What are you plans for the city taxes for residents?

I see that every candidate has posted “taxes” as a buzzword. My concern is if lowering taxes was as easy as hitting a light switch we would have done it by now. Some are proposing large costly projects such as adding a 3rd fire station for only 314 calls for service. The cost is projected to be paid by bonds and levies as we have nothing saved up.

Some speak of reducing costs for infrastructure this will lower taxes until we realize we’re stuck in gridlock with crumbling roads. My plan reduces costs while providing better services. Instead of cutting I have workable solutions that increase commercial that bring in large tax dollars to offset costs (the city of rogers model). Also we are contracting out engineering and a building department to for profits.

We are building 200 plus homes a year and want to increase commercial all without a dedicated building department. A building department is one of the very few departments that’s profitable. Please reachout to me or my website to get the whole plan.

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