The Nisswa City Council discussed possible ways to lower the 2020 tax impact on residents at a workshop Wednesday, Oct. 16.

The city’s preliminary general revenue tax levy adopted in September totals $2,553,492, which is 9% higher than this year’s levy.

At least two council members - Don Jacobson and John Ryan - said they’d be more comfortable with a 5%-6% increase. Jacobson said he would not vote for a 9% increase in the levy.

Mayor Fred Heidmann said he was generally OK with the preliminary levy number. The city is growing, and costs go up, he said.

“I would like to see less, but I think there’s a reality of the city running the best that it can. There are some needs and I’m comfortable with that,” Heidmann said.

Discussion included using money from the city’s reserve fund or from its municipal liquor funds (the Pickle Factory and Spirits of Nisswa) to offset expenses and lower the levy. The city has around $4.5 million in its reserve fund, though questions arose as to whether using even a small amount of that fund would hurt the city’s credit rating.

Also, the city expects in November to have more definitive market values from Crow Wing County and a better idea of how the Grand View Lodge expansion will affect the city’s tax rolls. Another unknown is how Crow Wing County might change its cost-share policy for county road improvements. The city is budgeting for upcoming County State Aid Highway 13 improvements.

Having those firm numbers will help create a more realistic picture of the budget and tax levy needs.

City Administrator Jenny Max said her goal is to have a balanced budget, and she would look into the ideas of using reserve fund or liquor fund moneys.

The council will adopt its final budget and levy for 2020 in December.

At its regular meeting Wednesday, Oct. 16, the council:

  • Heard a report from Terry Wallin, Pickle Factory manager, on operations there.

  • Learned the September police report included 28 agency assists, 185 calls for service, five criminal citations, 57 traffic warnings, 11 arrests, 10 emergency medical services calls and nine alarms.

  • Learned the September fire report included 21 emergency medical services calls, two fire alarms and one each structure fire, vehicle fire and vehicle accident for a total of 26 calls.

  • Accepted $10,510 in donations to the fire department.

  • Established Nisswa City Hall as the city’s polling place.

  • Accepted a citizens’ petition to vacate Pine Avenue between Birch and Poplar avenues near Lower Cullen Lake and set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20, at city hall.

  • Amended road reconstruction plans for Hazelwood Drive and Smiley Road South from 7 ton to 9 ton since both are in commercially zoned areas and heavily used by commercial vehicles. The council also agreed to consider including a low pressure force main in the Hazelwood Drive road reconstruction plan.

  • Accepted a proposal from Widseth Smith Nolting engineering firm for engineering and design of the wastewater treatment plant expansion for $193,000, which includes activity up to the bidding process. Heidmann questioned the cost, and City Engineer Mark Hallan with WSN explained it.

  • Agreed to allow the police department to buy a squad car - a 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid Engine for $35,759 - from Hibbing Ford from the 2020 budget.

  • Accepted an annual performance review and step increase for Max.