Council adopts 6.8% tax levy increase for 2022

Published 5:54 pm Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Forwards I-90 bridge design vote to next meeting

The Austin City Council unanimously approved the proposed tax levy of $7,940,000 for fiscal year 2022 during its regular meeting Monday evening.

The amount is a 6.8% increase over the 2021 levy. This is a $10,000 decrease from the original levy proposal of $7,950,000, which would have been a 6.91% increase.

A 6.8% increase translates to an estimated increase of $41 for the year on property taxes for a home valued at $130,000, according to Administrative Services Director Tom Dankert.

The tax levy will now be submitted to Mower County and the State of Minnesota. Under Minnesota statute, the tax levy may be decreased, but not increased, after Sept. 30.

The council also voted to adopt the proposed budget for taxes payable in 2022, which currently sits at $38,949,960.

“I think we have a reasonable budget and a reasonable proposed tax levy,” said Mayor Steve King. “I think we have a functioning city and I think this will be a nice equalizer for hiring back some staff that we desperately need.”

The annual Truth in Taxation public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. on Dec. 8.

During the work session, the council voted 6-1 to hold a vote during the next meeting on the single point bridge design for the replacement of the Fourth Street Northwest bridge over Interstate 90.

MnDOT submitted three designs for the bridge – single point, roundabout, and tight diamond with a signal. During the Aug. 16 work session, the council unanimously voted to instruct Lang to recommend the single point interchange design to MnDOT.

MnDOT Project Manager Jai Kalsy and SRF Consulting Design Manager Dave Nelson asked the council to confirm the choice after a public survey showed the tight diamond design, which is closest to what is already in place, was favored with over 330 responses. The roundabout design was a close second.

Nelson also noted that 75 active transportation users (those on foot, bike, or wheelchair) favored the roundabout option.

Differences among the designs that were noted were:

• The single point option is more expensive while the roundabout option is the cheapest;

• The single point option does not provide a clear east/west pedestrian crossing of Fourth Street within the interchange area; and

• The tight diamond option is the only option that may provide the opportunity to maintain traffic across Interstate 90 on Fourth Street during construction.

It was noted that all designs were viable options that would be an improvement on the current bridge.

Councilman Mike Postma (Second Ward), who cast the only dissenting vote, said he favored the roundabout option for pedestrians and expressed concern that the single point option would require pedestrians to cross four on and off ramps when crossing Interstate 90.

King said that in talking to the public, the single point and tight diamond designs were met with indifference, but the roundabout design received empathic yes and no responses. He also said that Midwest Diesel did not want the roundabout design.

The current bridge is scheduled to be replaced in 2023.