December 6, 2021 City Council Truth-in-Taxation Public Hearing and Input Minutes

A Truth-in-Taxation Public Hearing and Input meeting of the City Council of the City of International Falls, Minnesota, was held in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building on the 6th day of December, 2021 at the hour of 6:00 P.M.

MEMBERS PRESENT:       Councilors Holden, Buller, Krause, and Mayor Droba.

MEMBERS ABSENT:         Councilor Ditsch (on Zoom).

 STAFF PRESENT:              Betty Bergstrom, City Administrator

                                              Brad Ettestad, Finance Officer

                                              Emma Rud, Administration Support Specialist

                                              Lisa Riggs, Office Clerk

                                              Michael Kostiuk, Police Chief


  1. Mayor introductions/comments
  2. Presentation of proposed City of International Falls 2022 Budget and Levy Collectible in 2022, Harley Droba, Mayor.
  3. City Council questions/comments.
  4. Public input/questions/comments.
  5. Close the public hearing or recess to continue at a future date.


Mayor introductions Mayor Droba stated this was a tough budget for the City of International Falls to prepare and noted he would do his best to explain how the City Council came to the difficult decision to set the levy at $3,395,411 (13.91 percent increase over the 2021 levy).
Presentation of proposed City of International Falls 2022 Budget and Levy Collectible in 2022 Mayor Droba indicated that an information packet prepared by staff included the following items:  1) Exhibit A, anticipated to be adopted December 20, 2021 with the Resolution Approving the Final Tax Levy, Collectible 2022 and 2022 Budget for the City of International Falls, MN; 2)  2022 Summary of Partnership Agency Funding; 3) background information from the League of Minnesota Cities including preliminary local government levy changes statewide; 4)  Pie charts illustrating Proposed 2022 Revenues and Expenditures, 5)  LGA and Property Tax Levy Trends and Changes for years 2009 – 2022; and finally, 6)  Table of LGA for years 2002 – 2022 trends in actual LGA paid to the City.

Mayor Droba reviewed highlights and expenditures by fund as listed in Exhibit A.  He noted that LGA was certified to increase by $38,805 in 2022.  The total amount of LGA from the State is proposed to be $4,420,916.  The actual tax levy was proposed to increase in the amount of $414,547 or 13.91% over the levy for 2021.  The statewide average increase in the 2022 preliminary levies for all cities is 6.6%.  The total property tax levy is proposed to be $3,395,411.  Mayor Droba noted that for the 2021 budget the City used $87,243 from existing cash reserves to balance the budget deficit and to minimize the increase to the property tax levy.

Mayor Droba noted that an additional $34,646 is being allocated to Parks and Recreation to cover the costs of fixing the drainage at Riverview Blvd, batteries for the Kerry Park arena Zamboni, and routine maintenance for the existing Kerry Park arena building. Mayor Droba emphasized that there are no funds budgeted in 2022 for the Kerry Park Revitalization Project, as there is no certainty that this project will move forward.  Mayor Droba explained that an additional $265,000 is being allocated to permanent improvement and $123,000 for Reserve for Capital Outlay given the need to make improvements to public infrastructure.  Mayor Droba explained that in 2024-2025 Riverview Boulevard will require roughly $4 million in improvements; therefore, it is necessary to start putting larger amounts of funds away in preparation for this project.

Mayor Droba noted that almost all partnership agencies will take a nearly ten percent (10%) decrease in funding in 2022.

City Council questions/comments Councilor Holden stated he felt the presentation was a good overview to explain where the increases in the levy were being allocated and commented on the deteriorating infrastructure, including cast iron water and sewer lines.
Public input/questions/comments Mayor Droba welcomed comments from the audience at 6:29 P.M.

Dennis Wagner, 3581 Town Road 415, International Falls, MN (Ranier) commented on the one percent local sales tax the City of International Falls has implemented and the fact that the Minnesota Department of Revenue collects it for all households making online purchases with 56649 zip codes.

Julie Melstrom, 904 6th Street, was present to address the City Council.  Ms. Melstrom stated she contacted the Mayor and was awaiting a return phone call.  Ms. Melstrom requested information on budgeted versus actual costs expended for 2021 road projects, as well as a breakdown of budgeted costs for the 2022 anticipated road projects.

Ed Bates, 108 Riverview Blvd, explained that he spent time going back and watching the past year’s City Council meeting videos to determine how the Council arrived where it did with the proposed 2022 budget and levy.  Mr. Bates noted he understood what the Council was attempting to do, but felt that given inflation and prices of goods, specifically groceries, it is asking too much of citizens to deal with a 13.91 percent levy increase.

Ian Hall, 828 3rd Street, explained that as a young person raised in this community he never expected to move back here, but states that he is happy with the progress he sees in both the City and community, noting he has never felt better represented.  Mr. Hall explained that he is happy to see investment into infrastructure, and is happy to contribute tax dollars to ensure the sustainment of city infrastructure and services.  Mr. Hall thanked the Council for the work they are doing and the hard decisions they are making to better the community and ensure the long-term viability of the community.

CLOSED the public hearing


There being no further public comment, Mayor Droba closed the public hearing and input meeting.

City Administrator Bergstrom explained that the Council would have budget/levy discussions at the December 13, 2021 Committee-of-the-Whole meeting, and the proposed Resolution Approving the Final Tax Levy Collectible in 2022 and 2022 Budget for the City of International Falls, MN would be on the December 20, 2021 regular meeting agenda for action by the City Council.

ADJOURNMENT Mayor Droba adjourned the meeting at 7:00 P.M.

Harley M. Droba, Mayor


Betty Bergstrom, City Administrator

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