By Mark Fischenich
Free Press Staff Writer
NORTH MANKATO — Residents of North Mankato will see a 4.5 percent increase in the city portion of their property taxes next year unless the City Council makes a last-minute change in the tax levy.
The city’s public budget hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight, but the council is holding its latest budget workshop at 6 p.m. and could make adjustments. Final approval of the 2013 budget and levy is expected at the council’s Dec. 17 meeting.
“It’s not locked in,” said Councilman Bob Freyberg, a fiscal conservative who isn’t thrilled about a 4.5 percent jump one year after city taxes rose more than 7 percent.
“That’s 12 percent over two years and that’s kind of a lot to expect,” he said.
At the same time, the city has delayed some needed spending — such as a new water well — and borrowed for smaller equipment that Freyberg would like to see financed with cash.
“The last two years, we kind of kicked the can down the road,” he said.
That will be the basis of the dilemma the council faces as it decides whether to try to trim the levy.
If the 4.5 percent increase is ultimately approved, it would prompt a $32 rise in the city share of real estate taxes on a $100,000 home. The increase would be $55 for a $150,000 home and $79 for a $200,000 home.
The levy hike would generate $232,000 more for the city, with $94,000 of that being used to cover the cost of repaying city debt — which is incurred to finance everything from construction projects to snow plows.
The proposed budget includes a 4.2 percent increase in the city’s $5.6 million general fund spending, which covers costs ranging from police and fire service to maintenance of streets and parks to pay raises for city employees.
The council approved a preliminary levy increase of 7 percent in September — a figure that can be reduced but not increased as a final budget is hammered out later in the process.