The Waconia City Council looked ahead to 2022 infrastructure improvements and budgets at its latest meeting Dec. 6.

Following a public hearing, the council ordered improvements and authorized the preparation of plans for a package of projects for next year. The work includes downtown street, utility and sidewalk construction on Third Street West, Walnut Street to Olive Street; Maple Street South, Second Street to Fourth Street; and Willow Place from Third Street to the 200 block to the south. Also, street overlay, trail reconstruction and storm sewer at Oak Avenue south of Highway 5; and Dunsmore Drive, from the north intersection of Woodlawn Circle to the south intersection of Woodlawn Circle.

The total cost of the package is estimated at about $5 million, with $1 million to be assessed to affected property owners and the rest coming from city funds and some grant money. Questions at the hearing focused on assessment costs and policy, construction work and schedule, and tree preservation and replacement.

While the city’s assessment policy formula allocates a projected cost per property, city officials noted that final assessment figures are determined based on overall benefit to each property as determined by an independent market appraisal. So, assessments typically are capped by property, generally at about 50 percent of total cost and a maximum of $8,000 - $10,000 per single family unit.

Next steps include finalizing plans and specifications for the projects, and authorizing advertisement for bids. The city also expects to hold an open house for affected property owners to share more project details and answer questions.

The council also heard a final 2022 budget overview before it goes before a public hearing and final authorization vote at the next council meeting Dec. 20.

The proposed budget for next year amounts to just over $9 million -- $6 million for the city’s general operating levy and $3 million for special debt service. That compares to a budget of about $8.6 million this year.

Finance Director Nicole Meyer noted that taxable market value in the city has increased by 4.76 percent, with average overall home value up by 5.2 percent and the average home valued at $334,000. So, while the city’s tax rate will stay flat in 2022, local property owners can expect a slight increase in the city portion of taxes they pay for 2022.

The tax levy is the primary funding mechanism for the city, and typically comprises a general levy and special levies. The general levy funds general services such as fire, law enforcement, streets, parks and recreation, central facilities, planning and inspections, and administration. Special levies typically fund city improvements and other special projects.

Some general budget increases include a 2.5 cost of living salary increase for employees, a 7 percent increase in health benefit costs, plus some market adjustments to salary. Also, a few new positions, including full-time office assistant, parks maintenance supervisor, parks maintenance worker and part-time accountant. Additional increases are expected for inspection services with the increase in single-family home construction and new multi-unit construction on the horizon; also, some planned facility improvements including painting at city hall and office furniture replacement.

There will also be hikes to utility fund budgets and rates, with the average utility bill for storm sewer, sewer and water expected to increase from $82.46 a month to $86.29 per month, a $3.83 per month increase.

In development-related business, the council tabled a preliminary plat application for Sandy Shores, a development proposed for a 3.5-acre parcel just north of the Shores of Lake Waconia. The development there is for three single-family residential parcel and one outlot. The council tabled action and extended the deadline for the land use application to get more details and information on plans for a non-conforming use building on the outlot.

In other business, the council approved a $121,000 purchase of a bacteria killing ultra-violet light vessel to expand the city’s storm water reuse program to the new Waterford development addition. The vessel is similar to equipment in place in other stormwater reuse areas in the city.

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