Andover considers 4 percent tax levy increase

Staff Writer
I cover the cities of Andover, Blaine and Ramsey. I have worked at ABC Newspapers since August 2007.

The city of Andover’s 2018 budget will increase funding for current and future maintenance needs while also setting aside funding for a public works campus and a trail expansion on a major city road.

The Andover City Council on Sept. 19 will vote on a preliminary budget and levy for 2018, a task Anoka County’s property records and taxation department requires all cities to complete by the end of September annually so it can prepare and send out estimated 2018 property tax statements.

Andover will then hold a public hearing in December and the council could choose to maintain or lower the 2018 levy, but cannot increase it. So the September vote is always a vital step because it sets a levy maximum for the following year.

Currently, the Andover council is contemplating a 4 percent gross city levy increase. Over the past three years, Andover has increased its levy by 2.97 percent, 4.04 percent and 2.7 percent.

According to Assistant Finance Director Lee Brezinka, a home valued at $207,900 in 2017 paid $728 in 2017 on the city of Andover portion of their property taxes. Their 2018 home value will be $227,300 and the amount increases just $10 to $738. The owner of a home valued at approximately $315,000 in 2017 would pay $75 more in 2018 for city property taxes.

Mayor Julie Trude said a goal of the council has been to make sure there are no big dips or hikes in property tax levies from year to year. She said the city generally looks two years out on smaller equipment purchases and five years out when budgeting for larger projects.

The proposed 2018 levy of approximately $12.42 million includes levies for the general fund ($8.64 million), debt service ($1.6 million), and an “other levies” category that includes seven different levies and amounts to about $2.17 million.

Trails will be getting more attention. The pedestrian trail maintenance levy in that “other” category will be $100,000 in 2018. This levy has hovered around $60,000 annually the last four years.

“We have to put money in for trail maintenance like we do for roads and parks,” Trude said.

The road and bridge levy, which is the single biggest line item in the “other levies” category, is increasing 4.74 percent to a 2018 amount of approximately $1.17 million.

“We’re making initiatives to fund maintenance and replacement of existing infrastructure,” said Andover City Administrator Jim Dickinson.

When comparing 2014 with the proposed 2018 amounts, the debt service levy has decreased by half-a-million dollars in that time span. However, the proposed 2018 general fund levy is $1.2 million higher than 2014 and the “other levies” category has increased by more than $800,000.

“We shouldn’t think that we’ll get residents who will be here five years from now to pay for projects that people are benefiting from now,” he said.

Starting in 2017, the city added a new capital equipment purchases levy so the city would not have to go through a bond sale and issue new debt. That levy was $500,000 in 2017 and will increase to $525,000 in 2018.

A proposed new 2018 levy of $50,000 is for facility maintenance and Dickinson said this levy will likely stick around beyond 2018 because there’s some major facility maintenance items coming up in the next three to five years and beyond.

Repairs or replacements of roofs, heating and air conditioning units, electrical panels, fire alarm systems, windows and air quality systems were listed. The city has three fire stations, a city hall and a community center.

For example, Dickinson said the roof at city hall was replaced three years ago but the HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) units will need to be worked on. Next door at the community center, the roof over the ice rink has gotten more moisture than other areas of the building.

The city has been discussing community center expansion options, but Dickinson said he cannot budget for assumptions since no specific projects have been approved. Trude said whenever a community center or public works expansion project is approved, the city would need to issue bonds.

“It’s timing. Right now we don’t have any big projects we need to borrow for,” she said.

In the meantime, Andover continues to set aside dollars for the expansion of its public works facilities and community center which are both northwest of the intersection at Crosstown and Hanson boulevards. Dickinson said in an upcoming meeting the council will be voting on an option to transfer $500,000 from the general fund to a separate fund that can be used for further architectural and engineering studies and site prep work.

Another general fund transfer of $250,000 to help fund a new trail on the east side of Crosstown Boulevard, north of Bunker Lake Boulevard, will also be considered.

Dickinson said revenues for 2017 have come in higher than expected so there are funds available.

Trude said the increased revenue is due to the fact that there has been a lot of new home construction in Andover.

“It makes sense to put permit revenue into something related to growth,” she said.

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