The Osseo City Council approved its 2021 preliminary budget and tax levy at its Monday, Sept. 14, meeting after some discussion on if the budget should be lowered.

The council also received an update from Osseo School District Superintendent Cory McIntyre on the start of the school year.

2021 BUDGET/LEVY

The City Council approved 4-1 the preliminary 2021 budget and general tax levy, but not without some discussion.

City Administrator Riley Grams presented the council with the proposed preliminary 2021 budget and tax levy numbers.

The proposed 2021 budget shows a full-balanced budget between expenditures and revenue.

The total proposed expenditures budget for 2021 is $2,903,811, which is an increase of 3.22% over the 2020 budget.

The biggest increases to the budget are in general government (an increase of $41,501 over the 2020 budget), public safety (a $36,793 increase), public works (an $8,713 increase), and parks and recreation (a $3,539 increase).

Grams said the non-tax levy revenue decreased by 4.41% in 2021.

The city’s general fund levy is the amount of money the city needs to collect from tax-paying properties within the city to balance the preliminary budget. This results in a tax levy increase to $1,717,828 in 2021, or an 11.6% increase over 2020.

“That is the number by which we would ask all Osseo property owners to pay more into the city to cover city expenses,” Grams said.

He added the council cannot raise the amount of the proposed tax levy, it can only be lowered before the final adoption of the budget.

Councilor Harold Johnson expressed his displeasure with the proposed budget. “I am not going to be able to support an 11% increase, so therefore I will not be voting in favor of this moving forward.”

A motion was made by Councilor Mark Schulz and seconded by Councilor Larry Stelmach to adopt the preliminary budget and tax levy. Discussion continued.

Stelmach provided a reason for his seconding motion. “While there could be tweaks made, it’s a little bit of housekeeping ... we have to get this submitted and certified,” he said. “I am not going to support when we get into November, anything near 11%. I want to be very clear about that.”

Mayor Duane Poppe agreed. “Every budget we’ve ever done has been significantly lower than the preliminary,” he said. “Now it’s time to go to work. That’s why we’ve been able to lower the tax rate for seven years in a row. This is not where it’s going to end up for sure.”

Schulz added that over the next couple of months, the council will look for ways to cut.

Grams said: “This a function of how the budgeting process works. It’s the high watermark. If you cut it down too low, you could hamstring yourself into a really difficult situation.”

The city must adopt a preliminary budget by Sept. 30. The council can work to reduce the budget until it approves the final 2021 budget and levy at its Dec. 14 meeting. A truth and taxation public hearing will be Monday, Nov. 23, at 7 p.m. The city is working on how to host that hearing. More information will be coming from the city once a decision is made.

DISTRICT 279 UPDATE

Osseo Area Schools Superintendent Cory McIntyre provided the council with an update on the 2020-21 school year.

“Today was the first day of school and it was kind of a historic one,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ve ever had one quite this way to start. And we may never have another like this.”

The district had to choose between three instructional models for learning — in-person, distance learning or a hybrid of the two. He said all Minnesota school districts will pivot between these models depending on COVID-19 activity and guidance from the state.

The Osseo School District decided to have all students start the school year with distance learning, from Sept. 14 to 25. On Sept. 28, students will begin the hybrid model, which means students will be placed in either group A (which attends school in person Monday and Wednesdays) or group B (which attends school in person Tuesday and Thursday). All students will be remote learning on Fridays.

“Our desire is always to have students in school,” McIntyre said. “We are really trying to move and get our students back into our physical buildings as soon as safely possible.”

Johnson asked how the district was handling distancing on school buses. McIntyre said that state guidance states there should be 6 feet between the driver and the students on the bus, and everyone must wear a mask.

Councilor Stelmach questioned how after school activities would be handled. “Where are you at in your conversations about after school events, the activities, you know chess club and baseball?” he asked. McIntyre said the district is following MSHSL guidelines for athletics and some sports have been moved to the fall and others have shorter seasons. As for activities such as theater, he said the district is looking at ways to modify those using indoor distancing requirements. There may be smaller group events and not a large-scale production.

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