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Bemidji City Council finalizes 2022 finances with levy and budget approvals

During its meeting Monday, Dec. 20, the Bemidji City Council approved a $7.13 million tax levy for 2022, as well as the full budget. Additionally, the Council approved budgeting at the Sanford Center for a two-month period.

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

BEMIDJI -- The city of Bemidji will collect $7.13 million in property taxes in 2022, $619,165 more than in 2021.

The tax levy was set with a 9.5% increase by the Bemidji City Council on Monday night during its final regular meeting of the year. When accounting for new construction and property values, though, the increase amounts to 8.5%.

The levy provides funds for various items related to city operations. The tax levy dollars will go to the following in 2022:

  • For the city's general fund, which provides dollars to police, fire, parks, public works and general government operations, the tax levy will provide $6.2 million.
  • For capital improvements at the city-owned Sanford Center, $210,000 of the tax levy will be utilized.
  • The tax levy includes $385,000 for street improvements.
  • For debt services toward the Public Works Facility, the tax levy will contribute $267,055.

While the levy is calculated to be an 8.5% increase, city staff note how a homeowner's property taxes won't rise by that amount. The increase of the tax levy will result in the city's tax rate rising by 4.4%, meaning if a homeowner's property value remains the same, they'll see a 4.4% increase in their taxes.
The 2022 tax levy was approved unanimously by the council, as was next year's budget. For 2022, the city is budgeting $50.4 million in revenue and $49.9 million in expenses.

According to city staff, the general fund makes up 29% of the total budget. For 2022, the general fund will have a total revenue of $14.73 million and an expense amount of $14.58 million, resulting in a surplus of $157,000.

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The revenue for the general fund is budgeted to increase by $958,000 over 2021, mainly because of more property taxes, liquor profits, Local Government Aid from the state, and Rural Fire Association contributions. Expenses, meanwhile, are increasing by $910,000, largely driven by $609,000 more in personnel costs, with new staff, as well as pay and benefit adjustments.

Department-wise, the majority of the general fund, 44%, will go toward police and fire services, followed by public works at 17%, general government at 16% and parks and recreation at 10%. New equipment for the city makes up 6% of the general fund and 3% of it will go toward the Sanford Center.

Sanford Center budgeting

The budget at the city-owned event center was also approved Monday, but it wasn't for the whole year. The council approved a budget for just over two months, from Jan. 1 to March 6, 2022.

For the period, the Sanford Center is budgeting a gross profit of $364,000 and total expenses of $439,000. To make up for the operating loss, the city will invest $75,000 in the building.

On the revenue side, the highest budgeted items include the tenant lease of $105,000 with Bemidji State University, as the college's hockey programs play there, and $172,000 from food and beverage sales. For expenses, the highest items are labor at $161,000 and occupancy costs worth $126,000.

The budgeting process reflects the remaining time the Iowa-based company VenuWorks will be managing the facility. In September, the council voted to terminate the contract with VenuWorks, which set the date for the company's time at the Sanford Center to end March 6.

VenuWorks has managed the event center since it opened in 2010. The contract terminated in September had been negotiated and approved in 2018 and was supposed to go through 2024.

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In October, the council hired the firm Convention, Sports and Leisure International to assist with the transition process, including hiring a new management company and studying the regional market. The facility is 193,000 square feet and includes an arena with more than 4,000 seats with attached conference space.

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