In Corcoran, incumbent Mayor Ron Thomas is facing challenger Thomas McKee. They are seeking a two-year term.

The regular City Council election features three candidates seeking to fill two seats carrying four-year terms. The three candidates are incumbent Jon Bottema, George Gmach and Manoj Matthew Thomas.

In the special City Council election, Jeremy Nichols is challenging current City Councilor Brian Lother to fill one seat that carries a two-year term.

Election winners will join Alan Schultz on the City Council after Jan. 1.

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

Tom Mckee

Address -6633 Bridle Path, Corcoran, MN 55340

Education - Juris Doctor (JD) – University of Wisconsin Law School

Occupation -Project Manager, Director of Safety, Timco Construction

Community involvement- Adopt a highway sponsor, Corcoran’s “Ask a Resident Expert” local outreach program, Community outreach and organization, volunteer and support for local youth sports and Humane Society.  

Answers to questions:

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

Budgetary and city planning decisions made this year will determine what Corcoran looks like forever. We are at a crucial point in our developmental history. There’s no second chance; we do it right or live with the consequences forever. Do we retain our rural charm, or become a haphazard patchwork of unchecked development? Corcoran needs to refocus on city planning that’s assisted by experts and created with residential consensus.

We need to support our police and prioritize our infrastructure. For example, a Minnesota Department of Public Safety study determined our current firefighting coverage, which uses services from neighboring cities, doesn’t provide adequate response times to many areas of Corcoran. Instead of addressing this pertinent issue, the city prioritized a $700,000 plus renovation of City Hall (by the city’s own admission, this won’t extend the life of the building beyond the late 2020’s). Additionally, we should implement low-cost, technological improvements that will massively increase residential accessibility to city services.

Currently, large-scale industrial and other high density or non-residential projects are in various stages of approval. These will effect every corner of Corcoran and frankly, some are disastrous for our residents. We welcome and recognize the need for new business development to broaden our tax base and allow our city to thrive, but currently, nobody’s asking Corcoran residents and business owners how they want the city’s budget to be spent. I believe it’s the obligation of the Mayor and City Council to learn its residents’ vision, update city code and zoning ordinances that align with that vision, and then hit the pavement to court those opportunities.

What are your plans for city taxes for residents?

Corcoran residents pay more than enough taxes, period.  We pay as much or more as most comparable Minnesota cities and provide far less residential services. The money is there. We’re simply not spending it appropriately.

RON THOMAS

Address - 6575 Old Settlers Rd. Corcoran resident since 1991.

Education - Attended Wayzata High School, University of Minnesota Institute of Technology. Served in Air Force.

Occupation – Retired. Has hobby farm. Raises farm animals.

Community involvement - Corcoran City Council for 18 of last 20 years. Mayor for last four years. Member of finance committee, St. Thomas the Apostle Church.

Answers to questions -

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

Having participated in and approved the city budget, I would not make any changes. Financially, I believe that the city is in very good shape with over 35% cash reserves and a bond rating that is quite exceptional for a city of our size. We have a five-year financial plan that is used for forecasting future cash requirements for infrastructure and operation needs. We are funding a capital equipment account that will allow us to acquire future equipment with cash and avoid the need to generate debt for these purchases.

What are your plans for city taxes for residents?

  The council’s stated goal for the last four years has been to maintain or lower the tax rate for residents. This has been accomplished. Although the budget dollars have increased due to significant increases in residences, with the need for associated services and infrastructure, the rate paid by residents has decreased. In other words, if the value of your property did not increase, you would have seen a decrease in your taxes. In the real world with inflation, and the resulting increase in property values, most residents have seen slight increases in city taxes. For example, the median priced home in Corcoran will see a $5 per month increase in their city taxes for 2021.

Looking forward, I believe that we should be able to continue to reduce the tax rate while increasing services, significantly improving our parks and trail system and improving our roads. This will be possible due to the addition of new homes to the tax rolls. There is a lag of up to two years from a house being built and taxes being collected. Additionally, we can expect to see an increase in the commercial tax base as businesses come to Corcoran now that we have sufficient infrastructure and additional residences.

 

CITY COUNCIL

JON BOTTEMA

Address - 10500 Trail Haven Rd., Corcoran

Education - MBA – Finance and MIS, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota

Occupation - Senior Vice President - Wealth Management Institutional Consultant, UBS Financial Services

Community involvement - Northwest Trails Association, Corcoran Lions, Corcoran Jaycees, Corcoran Garden Club, Loretto Fire Department

Contact - Cell 612-247-7328

Answers to questions –

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

There are two principles I use to guide my spending decisions as a city councilman. First, city government and its budget should reflect the peoples’ priorities. Second, all government must be efficient and effective. For the city’s budget, I would continue to make sure that we stay safe as a city by prioritizing police and fire, while also providing the basic infrastructure every city needs, such as roads and utilities. We have a lot of development here. I want to make sure that long-term residents are not burdened by paying the costs for the new construction. That policy should continue. Citizens of Corcoran are strong and independent. I want to make sure the government doesn’t infringe on that. Every nickel the city spends is a nickel that gets taken out of our and our neighbor’s household budget. This fact will never be lost on me.

What are your plans for city taxes for residents?

I am an analyst by day, so I watch our budget carefully. I analyze every dollar. I have advocated for Corcoran’s city tax rate to remain flat or go down every year I have been in office. So far, that has been true in each year. I wish that other entities that have taxing power in Corcoran (Hennepin County, the Met Council) minded their budgets more. It is very, very important to me that our tax burden stays as small as possible, but delivers efficiently and effectively on services that we do provide. In addition, I would also like to diversify the city’s tax base by being welcoming to new businesses.

GEORGE B. GMACH

Address - 22600 Oakdale Dr.

Education - BA, University of Minnesota plus three years of graduate school

Occupation - Business Consultant (retired), Fraternal Insurance Company Lead Director (retired)

Community involvement - City Council 20 years intermittent (1983-2012), Planning Commission, Charter Commission (current), Corcoran Firearms Safety Team, 1stInfantry Combat Medic RVN (1969-70), Church Trustee (2002-2015)

Answers to questions –

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

  The budget is driven by the efficiency of delivery of the services provided.  Priority city services include public safety, transportation and utility systems and administration. The three core areas should be provided with the resources necessary to perform services efficiently. The city needs to be disciplined to manage growth of other services to a sustainable level. Occasionally this may mean saying no, or not yet, to attractive expenditures.

What are your plans for city taxes for residents?

  Of the total property tax in Corcoran, about one-third is driven by city levies. This varies by school district and property classification. Ideally net city taxes paid by property owners should not exceed inflation. This includes any broad-based fees that might be developed to fund environmental or transportation initiatives. The inflation measure used should not exceed the annual Social Security adjustment. Inflation of property valuations might result in higher taxes paid to the county and other taxing authorities. This is not something that the city can control.

New growth should pay for itself and should contribute to economies of scale that reduce growth of taxes on existing properties.

The city should avoid over reliance on fee income, such as building inspection, because there are limits on the city share of such fees, and a downturn could occur in unpredictable fashion. Inspection fees should be based on actual inspection work performed with a marginal administrative fee retained by the city. They are not a supplementary income source to augment taxes.

The city needs to maintain adequate reserve funds to preserve a high bond rating. This reduces interest rates on future bond issuance and can allow favorable refinancing as was done recently. Building the reserve fund was a goal when I was last on the council in 2009-2012 and it has continued with subsequent councils. I will continue that goal.

MANOJ THOMAS

Address - 6552 Carriage Way, Corcoran, MN 55340

  Education - Bachelors in Technology

Occupation - Regional Director for management consulting firm. Small business owners operating AAA insurance agency. Christian mental health counseling center serving northwest metro.

Community involvement - Corcoran Police Reserves Officer. Partnered with city providing additional coverage during the crisis created by pandemic and rioting. Corcoran City Charter Commissioner. Member of Corcoran Lions and Northwest Jaycees. Active church volunteer.

Answers to questions –

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

   Our City needs to squeeze more out of the budget. We have to review current programs and services to identify opportunities to trim the budget. We have to focus on introducing efficiencies in city operations through automation and technology. One trigger for this is to understand serviceability of mandates. While the city has mandates to adhere to, it has discretion on the level of service where applicable. An additional priority would be to review, delay and reprioritize projects - especially if they are facility expansions. These discretionary projects, while necessary, can be deferred to a time when the economy bounces back. For example, we cannot afford the plan to spend $750K plus in band-aid city hall improvements.

    What are your plans for city taxes for residents?

    I believe in taking a realistic and transparent approach to managing finances. Discipline in both short-term and long-term structural fixes in budgeting is critical during an uncertain economy. Partnering with neighboring cities to reduce cost of ownership of key services is critical to a healthy budget that focuses on reducing taxes for the residents.

    An additional lever available to the city is in the form of debt restructuring. With the cost of borrowing at historical lows, we can maximize our return on investment. We should also have better visibility to our cost structure and review options to create new revenue streams by monetizing city capabilities.

    Public– Private partnerships would be key for our city to take the next step in increasing the commercial tax base without burdening our residents. The city of Corcoran is now faced with the need for increased essential services and will benefit from a new perspective to limit a budget explosion. Our old techniques to contain the budget and taxes won’t be effective in the future. I am committed to making our city lean and efficient to reduce taxes for the residents.

CITY COUNCIL SPECIAL ELECTION

BRIAN LOTHER

Address - 10110 County Road 116, Corcoran

Education - BFA degree in Piano Performance, University of Minnesota

BA degree in Pastoral Theology, CBC

Occupation - Founding and Senior Pastor of Hope Community Church in Corcoran

Community involvement - Board of Directors, International Ministerial Fellowship. Chair, Corcoran Charter Commission

Answers to questions –

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

As a resident of Corcoran for 23 years, I have witnessed many positive changes in that time. Our city is growing with typical growing pains. Fortunately, past city leadership established a long-term financial plan that gave us tools to make sound financial decisions. Few cities of our size have used as sophisticated and sound a plan as we have. As a result, we have a strong bond rating and a plan in place where the public sewer and water systems for the newer, higher density development, has not created a financial burden and risk for the large number of tax payers who do not receive those services.

I am committed to listening to residents. Many have spoken, and the current city budget allocations reflect much of that input. Parks/Public Works and Police/Safety received the largest percentage of the budget with administrative costs closely behind them. If elected I will do my best to stay on the course laid out in our Comprehensive Plan and Financial Plan.

What are your plans for city taxes for residents?

The never-ending challenge for our City Council is to meet needs of our growing city while either maintaining or reducing the tax rate for residents. The overall tax rate in Corcoran was lowered for the fourth year in a row this past year. The Council has been guided by a five-year finance plan, and the city has stayed on track within the plan’s framework. The question that many might have is: “If the tax rate is maintained or reduced, then why are my property taxes going up?” The answer is: your property valuation has increased. As your property values increase, so will the amount you will pay in taxes, even though the tax rate is maintained or even slightly decreased. If your property did not increase in value, or decreased in value, then you would see a decrease in city taxes.  

Corcoran is an attractive, open-spaced city to live in. This attraction, along with properly staged development, brings an increase to most property values in our city.  I am committed to not increasing the tax rate on our residents. Future needed city revenues will come from development, developmental fees, and increase in property values. I am committed to finding and implementing the most efficient and economical way of achieving city priorities.

JEREMY NICHOLS

Address -  6334 Steeple Chase Lane, 55340

     Education - University of Minnesota, Bachelors of Science with Distinction and Masters of Engineering

     Occupation - Life Science Product Development, Project Management and Quality Director for Teleflex, medical device company in Maple Grove.

     Community involvement - Lord of Life Lutheran Church member, Team World Vision

     Answers to questions-

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

     The city has done well at keeping itself lean, but needs a fresh perspective to deliver efficient services without a premium cost. Sometimes a low headcount actually costs more. For instance, the city uses contracts with providers for building inspections, and pays a premium to do so. Staffing a group to shift to internal inspections and regulatory review could be a priority to allow cost savings.    

      Consolidating planning and engineering functions in house to avoid paying a premium are worth consideration also, once the workload is high enough. With contract staff, Corcoran’s needs always will be subordinate to larger clients. City staff should truly be staff so their focus is Corcoran. Keeping Corcoran’s rural beauty and lifestyle intact is a full-time job.  

      What are your plans for city taxes for residents?

      Corcoran has not focused enough on growing the tax base the right way to enable more significant tax reductions. While rates are relatively low, service levels are also low and the tax base is largely residential.  

      The city needs a better approach to driving commercial and industrial development. Current development is scattered through residential zones. This drives conflicts between the city and residents that distract from improvements the city needs while making the city a poor partner for businesses. Development needs to be focused in fewer, well-defined areas where adequate roads and utilities are available.  

       Focusing development in areas close to highways allows efficient growth of the tax base without affecting nearby neighborhoods negatively, allowing future tax reductions in the coming decade by shifting the mix of the tax base to include more commercial and industrial development.  This, together with continued spending discipline, is key to reducing taxes meaningfully for residents over the long term.

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