Budget details for 2021 pack Monday night City Council agenda

The Bemidji City Council on Monday night will discuss budgeting and taxes for the year 2021. Additionally, the council will receive presentations from entities such as the Sanford Center and Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board on 2021 plans.

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BEMIDJI -- Financial expectations for next year are likely to dominate the Bemidji City Council's first December meeting tonight.

According to city documents, the council will have its annual Truth in Taxation hearing, where Finance Director Ron Eischens will explain the workings of the 2021 budget and levy. Joining the hearing will be presentations by staff from the Sanford Center and Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board covering budget details for next year.

In past years, the Truth in Taxation agenda item has covered Bemidji's tax rate compared to other communities, the budget impact on the city's general fund and what the following year's tax levy will be. For 2021, the preliminary tax levy approved by the council was $6.5 million, an increase of $397,200, or 6.5% from 2020.

During discussions of the preliminary tax levy, the Council was informed that because of new construction and the annexation of more land from Northern Township, if a resident's property value stays the same, they're unlikely to see an increase. Before the final vote on the tax levy later this month, the council has the option to reduce the amount, but not raise it.

At the Sanford Center, city documents show that staff anticipates very little to no fans in the building for hockey games through March. As a result, the 2021 budget has incorporated that, as well as a reduction in expenses.


Other notes from the budget presentation include little to no growth in advertising expected in 2021 and no concerts being included at the facility until June. A positive budget impact is the expectation for more weddings in 2021 as many were postponed this year.

The total budgeted gross profit for 2021 at the Sanford Center is anticipated to be $1.98 million, while expenses will be $2.58 million. The net operating loss for the building in 2021 is expected to be $590,544. In the next year, the proposal is for the city to provide an operating investment of $450,000.

Opened in 2010, the Sanford Center is an arena with more than 4,000 seats with attached conference space. The 193,000 square-foot building is owned by the city and managed by Ames, Iowa-based company VenuWorks.

The Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board, which is made up of Bemidji and Northern Township to handle planning and zoning, has a few items on the agenda. One is increasing the compensation to members of the Joint Planning Commission, which reviews issues before they go on to the JPB.

Since it was established in 2007, the Joint Planning Commission members have been compensated $50 per meeting, resulting in a cost to the city of $4,800 per year when including all meetings and members. If compensation went to $100, the cost to the city would be $9,600.

Another item is adding a compliance inspector and site analyst position in 2021 to the planning office. The position will work under the general supervision of the planning director and assist with site-plan analysis. The individual will also conduct and document on-site visits, respond to inquiries from the public and developers, and prepare and issue notification of violations.

The hire has been included in the 2021 budget for the planning office, and city documents show the position's salary will be covered by JPB reserves. The total amount of reserves reflected in the 2021 budget is $69,450.

When including the reserves, along with $164,963 from the city, $57,103 from Northern Township, $6,345 from the Bemidji Regional Airport and $94,600 in revenues and fees, the total amount the planning office will have in 2021 is $392,461.


The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. tonight, Monday, Dec. 7, and can be viewed live on the city's website.

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