Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Orr levy could rise by seven percent next year

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 9/11/19

ORR— The city’s levy here could rise by as much as seven percent next year, based on council action on Monday. The levy increase, which the council approved with little discussion, is preliminary …

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Orr levy could rise by seven percent next year

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ORR— The city’s levy here could rise by as much as seven percent next year, based on council action on Monday. The levy increase, which the council approved with little discussion, is preliminary and could well be reduced before the council sets its final 2020 budget and accompanying levy in December. City officials plan to meet with their department heads over the next several weeks to look for ways to reduce spending and keep next year’s levy increase to a minimum. Staff will also be exploring possible opportunities to rent the former city hall, which is being vacated by the local St. Louis County assessor.

Along with the levy proposal, City Clerk-Treasurer Cheri Carter presented the city’s proposed 2020 budget, which includes general fund expenditures of $312,242. The proposed levy, totaling $117,861 would fund just over a third of that spending, with other governmental revenues accounting for the rest.

Next year’s proposed expenditures represent about a $5,000 increase over the current budget, and would amount to a reduction of approximately $33,000 over 2018 expenditures.

In related action, the council set its annual Truth-in-Taxation public hearing for Monday, Dec. 9, at 5 p.m. at city hall.

In other action, the council set a public hearing for 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 15 at city hall as part of the process for vacating an alley located between 4628 and 4632 Lake Street. The alley was part of the original platting for the location, but the city never developed the alley as a public roadway and is now proposing to vacate it, with the property to revert to the adjacent landowners.

One of the adjacent owners of the alley had requested that the city maintain the alley, but the city insists they have always viewed the corridor as a private driveway, even though it was originally platted as an alley. “Because it was never opened to the public, the city can petition to vacate it,” said Mayor Joel Astleford.

The meeting’s only bone of contention came during discussion of whether or not to install a slushy machine at the municipal liquor store. City hall staff have been arguing for the installation of a slushy machine as another enticement to get people in the door. But liquor store manager Chet Nieman said he’s against the idea, noting that the machine would require regular cleaning and that the staff is already overworked. “Why do you care anyway?” asked Nieman of Carter. “You never go in the ‘muni’ anyway.”

“Well, I would if there was a slushy machine,” responded Carter.

Astleford, clearly somewhat amused by the discussion, told Carter and Nieman that they had six months to “work it out.”

In other business, the council:

 Gave approval to sending notice to delinquent utility customers that they have until late November to bring their accounts up-to-date or the city will certify them to the St. Louis County Auditor for addition to their property taxes.

 Approved a new two-year contract with the city’s maintenance staff, including Paul Koch and Rocky Hoffman, who are represented by the Operating Engineers Local 49. The new contract includes a three-percent cost of living increase in each of the two years.

 Approved increases in water and sewer rates, effective Oct. 15, 2019. The cost of 1,000 gallons of water will rise from $7.06, to $8.06, while the sewer rate will increase from $8.59 per 1,000 gallons to $9.59. The late fee will also increase to $7.50 per month.

 Approved the rescheduling of upcoming city council meetings due to federal holidays. The council’s October meeting is rescheduled to Tuesday, Oct. 15 in observance of Columbus Day and the November meeting is rescheduled to Tuesday, Nov. 12 in observance of Veterans Day. Both meetings are set for 5 p.m.

 Approved the purchase of three new fire hydrants.

 Approved a bylaw change for the ambulance service to allow for staggered terms for the supervisor, secretary, and training officer.

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