BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji tax levy may rise by as much as 3.6 percent based on budget discussions at a City Council work session Monday.
City Finance Director Ron Eischens provided updates to the council on new developments concerning the budgeting process. Eischens' presentation comes a week before the council is expected to vote on the preliminary tax levy.
One of the areas highlighted in the budget discussion was the Parks and Recreation Department. Over the course of the meeting, the council discussed changes to usage rates at the Neilson Reise Arena and considered a boost in overall funding for the department.
According to city documents, the arena's operational costs are funded by a combination of transfers from the general fund and ice usage rent. Before Monday's meeting, the rates at the arena were $120 per hour for adult groups, $105 per hour for youth hockey and $95 for figure skaters.
In a 6-1 vote, the council opted to increase the rate for all groups by $25. Voting in favor were Mayor Rita Albrecht and council members Mike Beard, Nancy Erickson, Michael Meehlhause, Emelie Rivera and Jim Thompson, while Ron Johnson was against.
The council also voted Monday to increase funding to the Parks and Recreation Department by $25,000. In the lead up to the vote, Erickson brought forward a motion to end the $30,000 amount the city provides to Greater Bemidji Economic Development, with the intention of directing those funds to Parks and Recreation. The motion died, though, with a lack of a second.
As part of the discussion, Beard cited the newly opened Delta Dental facility in the city and its annual impact of more than $100,000 as a reason to continue its financial support of Greater Bemidji.
Another city department highlighted in Eiscens' presentation was law enforcement. According to Eischens, the Police Department's auto theft grant will reduce from $80,000 to $62,500 next year. Additionally, its Toward Zero Deaths grant will decrease from $66,750 to $58,135.
The council's next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 16. The 2019 tax levy was set at $5.8 million.