The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 18, 2013

N. Mankato mulls $10M in deferred projects

By Dan Linehan

---- — NORTH MANKATO — The city plans to spend $8.3 million in the next five years on big-ticket projects and equipment. That includes a $150,000 financial software system, a $250,000 concession stand at the new soccer fields and a $1.4 million well, all slated for next year.

But there’s another, even costlier list of big projects. The second list is comprised of the spending North Mankato no longer believes it can afford, at least without borrowing more money or extending the sales tax.

Most of these 15 projects, which collectively cost $10 million, were once on the five-year plan. About $3.7 million are parks or library projects that were originally to be funded with the half-percent local sales tax.

But the city has spent or is obligated to spend almost all of the $6 million in sales tax authority, so the tax would need to be extended in order to fund these extra projects. They include $730,000 in improvements to Caswell Park, $1 million for Benson Park and $500,000 for a library expansion.

Mayor Mark Dehen said he has spoken with the city of Mankato about making a joint request to the Legislature to extend and broaden both of the cities’ local sales taxes.

Most of the rest of the deferred items are street improvements. Among them are reconstructions of parts of McKinley Avenue and Cross Street, as well as other lower North Mankato roads.

“Those are the last bits of lower North infrastructure that need to be addressed,” Dehen said.

Once option would be to raise property taxes and borrow more money. The debt service levy is about $1.5 million now, and it would have to be raised to accommodate these extra projects.

The council doesn’t have to decide right now if and how it will fund the added projects, and there was little discussion about it at the Monday meeting.

Councilman Kim Spears suggested putting the park improvements on hold but said the road improvements were more important.