The Canton City Council reviewed and adopted the 2022 general fund budget and certified its tax levy, collectable in 2022, during its meeting last Wednesday evening, December 8.
The final general fund budget was set at $275,915, This represents a 7% increase from the 2021 budget. Clerk Brock Bergey explained that the increase comes mainly from the need to replace the city’s aging backhoe, which was purchased in 1997.
In turn, the 2022 tax levy was set at $164,568, which is a 3.4% increase from the 2021 tax levy. The preliminary tax levy, set in September, included an increase of 5.5%. Since that time, the finance committee and city staff have done some additional “number crunching” and were able to bring that increase down a bit.
Bergey also noted that the finance committee members, Councilmen Josh Nordsving and Randy Gossman, had good discussions and kept fiscal responsibility in the forefronts of their minds when preparing the budget. He thanked them for their work and their understanding of the goals to keep spending down.
In addition to the general fund budget, the city council also approved the water, sewer and fire department budgets as well. Bergey also pointed out that the tax levy provides money for the general fund and cannot be used in these individual enterprise funds.
Employee handbook updates
After certifying the levy and adopting the budget, Bergey brought up the subject of doing a wage study or at least reviewing the current handbook regarding employee wages and benefits. As he presented information from the handbook, it was clear to the council and those attending the meeting that the information was outdated. Bergey also noted the only job description that exists in the city is for the deputy city clerk, which exists only because he and the personnel committee created one when hiring to fill that position.
He also noted some discrepancies in practice versus policy. The handbook says that only full-time employees get benefits, yet Bergey, as a part-time employee, was hired with some conditions of benefits while other part-time city employees do not have those same benefits.
The clerk proposed hiring an independent company, DDA Human Resources, to do a wage study, for a cost of $6,700 or, as an alternative, ask the personnel committee to devote time to updating the wages, job descriptions and benefits within the handbook.
Gossman supported hiring the outside company, realizing the city needs to update the information. “It’s for the benefit of the employees as well as the citizens,” he said.
Mayor Nick Prestby agreed saying he felt having city staff work on that would only take the clerk and deputy clerk away from other current projects they are working on.
The council approved hiring DDA Human Resources to do the wage study and update the staff handbook.
The city council voted to have Fillmore County take care of the two tax forfeited properties in Canton, preparing them for public auction in March. The two properties in question are the former Canton school building owned by Steve Popplewell and residential property of Jeremy and Crystal Scrabeck.
In regards to the school building, councilman Carl Ernst said, “I don’t think the city can take on that responsibility. Our hands are tied.”
The council also stressed that when these two properties go to auction, the buyer needs to be aware that they both need to be cleaned up. Both are in violation of current city ordinances.
The school, especially, is a concern as the city does not want it to continue sitting on the edge of town in its ever-deteriorating condition. The council agreed that any potential buyer has to know it is a hazardous property and the city expects it to be cleaned up with the proper disposal of asbestos.
Bergey noted he expects to have a conversation with the city attorneys and county attorney to have some sort of condition attached to the sale to make sure the property does not remain in its current condition.
The council went into closed session to discuss the case against former city clerk Lolly Melander, who is accused of embezzling funds from the city. When the meeting reopened, the mayor reported the council consulted with County Attorney Brett Corson regarding the case and noted Melander’s next court case will be in January.
A public hearing was held regarding a land variance permit application by Dallas and Karlee Serfoss. The applicants request permission to build a 10’x20’ outbuilding at 405 North Main Street. The proposed project does not meet the 10-feet property line setback requirements to the north. No residents voiced any opposition to the request, so permission was granted for the variance. The council also approved a building permit for the project.
Bergey also noted during his monthly report that the city of Canton will be receiving an additional $1,200 in ARP funds. The deadline passed for local governments to request those funds and a portion of the state’s allocation of Local Fiscal Recovery Funds remained unrequested. As allowed by the U.S. Treasury, the state of Minnesota redistributed those funds among those eligible cities who did request use of those funds.
Public works employee Jim Davis reported that the Minnesota Department of Health visited the plant and the sewer lines have been targeted as part of the upcoming utility improvements. The city has approved an expenditure of up to $15,000 for that project, however, there may be a need to increase that amount before the project is completed.
The city council accepted the resignation of Chad Wangen from the fire department and approved a motion to advertise for a replacement.
Gossman reported that several volunteers had joined him to work on the former bus shed, shoring it up and installing new doors. The painting of the doors will be completed in the spring.
The city opted to continue voting by mail for 2022 elections rather than designating a polling place. This is an option for Canton due to having fewer than 400 voters.
The council approved registration and costs associated with sending Mayor Prestby to the League of Minnesota Cities elected leaders training.