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Bemidji City Council approves 8.5% preliminary tax levy for 2022, with final vote in December

In a 5-1 vote, the Bemidji City Council approved a preliminary 8.5% tax levy increase for 2022 during its Sept. 20 meeting. The council may now lower the amount, but not raise it, before the final vote in December.

Bemidji City Hall 2020 web art.jpg
Bemidji City Hall.

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji tax levy will increase up to 8.5% next year, with the Bemidji City Council setting the preliminary amount Monday.

During its second September meeting, the council approved the 2022 preliminary tax levy. Moving forward, the council is allowed to lower the tax levy, but not raise it, before the final levy vote in December.

Initially, city staff presented a $282,000 levy increase, a rise of 4.3% from the $6.5 million levy for 2021. When including the expected value from new construction, the net levy increase comes to 3.3%.

However, because of other city needs, the council on Sept. 13 suggested adding $339,000 more, bringing the levy to 9.5%, for a net levy increase of 8.5% when accounting for new tax value. If the council votes on the same number in December, the 2022 tax levy will be $7.13 million.

By approving the preliminary tax levy, the council also set a truth in taxation public hearing date for Dec. 6. Before then, the council will determine how to allocate the $339,000.

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The main expense includes capital improvements at the Sanford Center. Other city needs include city building maintenance, park improvements, Tourist Information Center operations, street funding and development of the Railroad Corridor.

The preliminary levy was approved in a 5-1 vote, with Mayor Jorge Prince, as well as Councilmembers Josh Peterson, Ron Johnson, Emelie Rivera and Daniel Jourdain in favor, while Audrey Thayer was against.

Ward 5 vacancy

Another agenda item Monday was the council declaring a vacancy and ordering a special election. The action was needed following the resignation of former Councilmember Nancy Erickson on Sept. 8.

In a letter declaring her resignation, Erickson wrote, "the council is moving Bemidji in fundamental directions that I can't support. I am no longer able to effectively represent our citizens with confidence."

The council set a filing period from Nov. 30 to Dec. 14 and ordered a special election to be held on Feb. 8. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, a runoff election will be held on Aug. 9, 2022.

In addition to ordering the special election, the council also selected Johnson as the new mayor pro tem, as Erickson previously held the role. The mayor pro tem takes over mayoral duties when the mayor is absent.

Erickson won her first election in 2000 and earned reelection in 2004. Rather than seek another term in 2008, she ran an unsuccessful mayoral campaign. In 2012, she rejoined the council after winning another election for Ward 5.

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