Reiterating that 2021 is not a year to raise taxes, Scott Pederson cast the only "no" vote when the Pequot Lakes City Council approved next year’s budgets and general revenue tax levy, which is 2.10% higher than this year’s levy, Tuesday, Dec. 1.

“I’ve been very consistent in speaking about the times we’re living in, shutdown for some businesses,” Pederson said. “And we look at this and say, ‘It’s OK to raise our budget this year.’ We’re not listening to what’s happening in the world, not listening to what’s happening in our community.”

Property taxes also include county and school district levies. For Pequot Lakes property owners, the city portion of their taxes includes the following for 2021:

  • General revenue tax levy: $1,828,455 (increase of $38,595 from this year, or 2.16%).

  • Tax abatement levy for Pequot Lakes Supervalu: $18,080 (decrease of $613 from this year, or 3.28% lower). This will be the 10th of 13 years for the tax abatement levy. Before the grocery store was built, the city agreed to abate the city’s portion of taxes on the increased value of the development back to the developer from 2012-24.

  • Total levy amount: $1,846,535, or 2.10% higher than this year.

  • Housing and Redevelopment Authority levy: $46,247. This is an increase of $8,000 from 2020; however, the HRA levy has not increased in many years. The HRA said its 17-year-old units now require substantial repair, replacement and updating, which is where the additional levy funds would be used.

Council member Mimi Swanson attended the meeting online via Zoom. Mayor James Tayloe and council members Pederson and Cheri Seils attended in person at city hall. New City Administrator Rich Spiczka attended his first council meeting in that position.

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No one spoke at a public hearing to discuss the city’s proposed budgets and proposed property tax levies, which must be adopted by Dec. 28.

After the public hearing, Pederson said he hadn’t heard any good reasons for some expenditures. He said he wants a better plan next year to have information to base decisions on.

Swanson said she was speechless and she disagreed with Pederson and his attitude.

“I’m all for pushing the budget as presented for 2021,” she said.

In the end, the four-person council approved the HRA budget, tax levy budgets and special revenue and enterprise budgets for 2021 on a 3-1 vote with Pederson opposed; set the 2021 HRA levy on a unanimous vote; and set the general revenue tax levy and tax abatement levy on a 2-1 vote with Pederson opposed.

The city continues to accept applications for an open council seat through Sunday, Dec. 20. At its January meeting, the council - which will include mayor-elect Tyler Gardner and council member-elect Pete Clement - is expected to appoint someone to fill the late Jerry Akerson's seat through 2022.

In other business Dec. 1, the council:

  • Accepted the 2021 agreement for professional services with the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp. for $10,300.

  • Approved the 2021 fee schedule.

  • Learned police had 236 calls for service in October.

  • Authorized advertisement of bids for Larsen Parkway utilities and street improvements in the Heart of the Good Life development. Larsen Parkway will go south off Derksen Road into the development.

  • Approved a pay increase for utility billing/administrative specialist Jennifer Peterson because of a new job description.

  • Acknowledged the resignation of Melissa Birch from the city’s library board (term expires at the end of 2022), and appointed Dominique Mitchell to fill a different board vacancy through 2021.

  • Acknowledged hourly rate changes from city attorney Flaherty & Hood of St. Paul for legal services.

  • At Swanson’s request, heard a presentation from Lili Lennox, a muralist and scenic artist from the Twin Cities, about the idea of incorporating a mural or artistic scene depicting Pequot Lakes when the city redesigns Patriot Avenue in a couple of years. Swanson, who served at her last council meeting, asked to remain on the design team as a citizen for this project.

Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.