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Bemidji City Council ready to approve 2013 budget

BEMIDJI – The Bemidji City Council is poised to approve the 2013 budget and property tax levy during Monday night’s meeting.

The city set out to maintain services at 2012 levels, with some exceptions, including the addition of a police officer and squad car and added costs for providing services to newly annexed areas.

The budget includes a 7.8 percent property tax levy increase ($302,232), 5.4 percent of which is needed to capture newly annexed property.

It also includes a gas and electric franchise fee increase of 1 percentage point, which is projected to generate $220,000 in additional revenue. Franchise fees apply to taxable as well as non-taxable properties.

The budget also includes a 3 percent cost of living increase for union and non-union city staff, as well as a 2 percent operating budget increase for non-personnel costs in all departments.

Capital Improvement plan

The council will also hold a public hearing on its 2013-2017 capital improvement plan during Monday’s meeting.

The plan, which is updated annually, includes $21 million in anticipated construction projects and $6 million in equipment purchases. Of that $27 million, $11 million relates to utility improvements and $8 million is for scheduled street reconstruction.

After the public hearing, the council will consider approving the plan.

Paul Bunyan sign

Two proposals for a new sign on the Paul Bunyan State Trail Bridge over State Highway 197 will go before the council for consideration Monday.

City officials previously met with Minnesota Department of Transportation and Department of Natural Resources to come up with a compromise on the sign. Gov. Mark Dayton also mediated that meeting.

 MnDOT was resistant to have a “Welcome to Bemidji” type sign over a highway and next to stoplights, citing safety concerns.

City leadership expressed disappointment with the current sign during that meeting, as the color scheme makes it hard to decipher what is on the sign.

Once the council decides what sign it would like, city staff will meet with MnDOT and the DNR, city manager John Chattin said.

Open house

There will be an open house before the council meeting for departing city council members and Mayor Dave Larson.

Larson, who was first elected in 2010, lost to current Ward 4 Councilor Rita Albrecht in November’s election.

Ward 1 Councilor Kevin Waldhausen chose not to run this year, and Ward 5 Councilor Greg Negard lost his re-election bid to Nancy Erickson.  

The open house will start at 6 p.m. Monday at city hall.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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