The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 7, 2012

Council to vote on street light fee Monday

(Continued)

MANKATO —

Susie Brown, public policy director for the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, said it’s not for her to say if the amount of the fee to each individual nonprofit will have a significant impact. It’s the principle.

“The principle part is nonprofit organizations are exempt from supporting the operations of government, being that we are complementing the operations of government, and our resources are directed toward that,” Brown said.

Brown said the Council of Nonprofits understands the fiscal squeeze on local government, and even that certain individual-use fees might be understandable (water and sewer usage for individual operational needs, for example). However, she said, street lights serve the general public (street traffic outside the nonprofit, for example).

Brown is planning to attend Monday’s meeting, and she said other area nonprofit representatives will as well.

Despite the likelihood of the measure passing, Brown said, “We would always hope to influence opinions.”

Considine said the revenue from the fee will go into a dedicated fund, so any excess revenue can only be used for street lights.

“It’s transparent,” Considine said, adding that diversifying the city’s revenue stream also will bolster its bond rating. “We won’t be taking money and sneaking it back into the general fund. That money will be for street lights.”

As of 2010, 28 Minnesota cities (or 3 percent) had a street light utility fee. Considine said, over the past 18 months of discussing the issue, the council  looked at data from some of those cities to determine the pros and cons.

Laven said the fee may increase in the future.

“If the cost of the lights increases, that would be the only reason the council would increase the street light utility fee,” Laven said.

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