The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

April 30, 2014

Apartment owners plead for rate break

(Continued)

Originally, the plan was to eliminate the volume discounts Jan. 1, 2015, and implement the $4.51 monthly basic fee on all housing units — including each apartment — on Jan. 1 of this year. Complaints by apartment owners prompted the council last December to delay the per-unit charge by six months and move up the elimination of the volume discounts by six months, which allowed the budget to stay balanced by boosting revenue from large users sooner while delaying increased payments by apartment owners.

This week apartment owners asked for another delay in the per-unit basic fee or a change in policy to eliminate that fee. But Doyscher also said the owners and managers would be willing to accept a council decision to cut the fee in half for multi-unit apartment buildings.

"The other thing is we'd like to start working more directly with the city staff," Doyscher said of negotiating a change in the policy.

That's preferable to the persistent appearances at council meetings and publicly "looking like we don't agree," he said.

"Well, we don't," City Manager Pat Hentges said.

Hentges said Mankato's new approach isn't unusual, pointing at other cities that charge a basic service fee for every apartment or charge higher rates for higher usage of water.

"I couldn't find one entity that had a single base price regardless of the size (of an apartment building)," said Hentges, who believes that the policy favored by the apartment owners would leave single-family homeowners subsidizing renters.

Ann Dolan, who manages the massive Highland Hills apartment complex near Minnesota State University, was one of the four pleading for a change in the policy or at least a delay. In an earlier interview with The Free Press, Dolan suggested the city was seeking to generate revenue from college students and other renters because they don't vote in municipal elections.

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