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Bemidji City Council to discuss budget, park funding

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji City Council will discuss next year's budget and funding future park improvements during a work session Monday night.

City staff will recommend setting aside $24,000 for an extra staff person at the Bemidji Public Library contingent on Beltrami County support. Also, staff recommends setting aside $20,000 for a possible increase to the city's contribution to the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board.

City finance director Ron Eischens wrote in a memo to city councilors that the Neilson Reise Arena, which is more than 40 years old, is in need of additional repairs. He recommended dedicating $15,000 for area maintenance.

Eischens wrote the city's property tax levy will be lowered next year due to action by the state Legislature. The state imposed property tax levy limits for 2014, and as a result Bemidji's maximum levy will decrease by $7,000 or .2 percent from its 2013 level of $3.1 million, Eischens wrote.

Eischens also gave city councilors several options to consider when determining how to fund park improvements and south shore beach cleanup costs. The city council found out last month that clearing the beach of wood chips and other debris would cost $1.2 million.

Eischens wrote that general obligation bonds would require a voter referendum, which would have to describe the amount of money being raised and the property tax increase required to repay bonds. He added if the council wants to fund basic park amenities for $1 million or less, it might be possible to fund them internally.

The council will also be presented an alternative parks master plan for for consideration during Monday night's meeting. That plan includes a playground and shelter as high priorities for the south shore park.

The council will also consider approving priority improvements for Paul Bunyan and Library parks. The full redevelopment of those parks would cost between $2.9 million and $3.4 million, but only $1.4 million has been secured for funding.

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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