Finalized 2019 financial numbers presented to Bemidji council

Bemidji City Hall
Bemidji City Hall. Pioneer file photo

BEMIDJI -- The city of Bemidji closed out 2019 in healthy financial shape.

According to a presentation given during a work session Monday, City Finance Director Ron Eischens said all revenue exceeded expenses by $804,000 across all funds. Eischens also noted that the city's cash balances are at a "healthy" $31 million, an increase of $2.3 million from the year before.

While the city is running well financially, though, Eischens discussed fiscal challenges ahead.

"It goes without saying that we're really anxious to see how the state bonding results work out, because we definitely need outside funding for the water treatment plant in particular if we want to avoid significant rate increases," he said.

The city is seeking $8 million in bonding from the state Legislature to support the construction of a facility to treat chemicals known as perfluorocarbons, or PFCs. Located near the Bemidji Regional Airport, the plant is estimated at $16.3 million.


Along with bonding dollars, the city is also seeking authorization from the Legislature to put forward a referendum, which would create a 1/2% sales tax. Along with the treatment facility, the sales tax dollars would be used for two other purposes.

The city plans to make upgrades to its wastewater treatment plant, allowing the facility to handle greater capacity and meet potential new state requirements.

The city-owned Sanford Center, now 10 years old, also has an estimated $750,000 in capital needs on an annual basis.

"Once we know what the wastewater treatment plant's license requirements are, we will have a water and sewer rate study done, to see what we need to do with those rates," Eischens said.

Another section of Eischens' presentation focused on the city's municipal liquor operation. According to his data, Eischens showed that Bemidji was 13th in statewide sales, including metro area stores.

Despite the impact of constructing the new store, Eischens said sales in 2019 increased by 7.8%. Additionally, the liquor stores have had a 25% increase in March.

Eischens said profits from the store contribute $451,000 to reduce property taxes, which equates to 7.4% in tax levy savings. The operating profit in 2019 was $679,838, up from $544,394 in 2018.

Bemidji's new liquor store, First City Liquor, was completed in 2019. Located at 500 Paul Bunyan Drive NW, the 16,300 square-foot, $4.1 million building replaced Discount Liquor.


The city operates two stores as part of its operation, with the other being Lakeview Liquor, housed in a 25-year-old building at 510 Paul Bunyan Drive SE.

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