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Rushford Village reduces levy, considers annexation petition

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Dec 6th, 2013
Posted in Rushford Village Government

In a move that’s not often an option for cities, Rushford Village has opted to reduce the city’s 2014 levy by $10,000, setting it at $350,000. The city hasn’t approved a levy increase since December 2011.

In light of standing financial review, city staff determined that in the past money has been set aside in CD accounts and either not used, instead drawing from general fund reserves, or not used completely. “Why let it sit for a rainy day,” asked Mayor Dale Schwanke. Rather than pay or repay funds on a schedule, which often accrues interest, he suggested the city opt for early repayment, when available. “We don’t go around throwing money around and just sitting there, taxpayers are losing the difference. We need to find a way to perpetuate that. I strongly suggest we trim to try to get to 1 or 2 percent less.”

“If we’re looking at the numbers, and we’re in that kind of condition, is 2 percent enough?” asked Councilor Gordy Johnson. “Are we looking for a percentage or a number?”

“We need to show our taxpayers that we’re trying to spend less,” added Schwanke. A motion was made by Johnson, and seconded by Hamilton Peterson, to reduce the levy by $10,000. It was approved unanimously by three votes, as councilors Todd Baker and Dennis Overland were absent.

Further details of account standing will be presented at the December 17 meeting, hopefully giving better understanding of balances, debts, and terms to allow a clearer picture of what can be trimmed in 2014. The city is awaiting a road condition report, which will assist in determining the extent of a proposed 2014 multi-road project that is capped at $500,000. Still, city staff was of the determination that there was still room for the reduction in city spending.

In other news, Peterson residents Alan Lipowicz and Jan Smaby presented the city with a formal petition for annexation to Rushford Village. “We’ve thought for years about this,” noted Smaby. “We receive no city services, as far as infrastructure, and there’s no reason for the city to try and offer it. We’ve often thought, ‘We’re so unique.’ We believe we would fit well into the City of Rushford Village profile. We’ve looked at your zoning, ordinances, and the comprehensive plan and it fits well with our desire to maintain our land as a homestead.”

“We need to look to the future and importance of our land. It belongs in the City of Rushford Village. It’s so natural. So, we’re asking to join you. I should mention, we’re not doing this for financial incentive. I have no idea what our taxes would be. We’re doing this for the future and preservation of our property. We would like to join.”

The 39.8 acres of land that is owned by the duo sits on the northwest corner of Peterson’s boundaries along Airport Road, and represents a large portion of land for a city which is defined as 0.48 square miles. According to Smaby, the property is the only homesteaded farm within the city and it already benefits from Village services when the Peterson contracts with the city for road maintenance. A question of where the property would break with Peterson was also asked and Smaby noted that the property abuts a freshwater creek through the Boyum property. A creek overpass also abuts the property, but is not part of it, belonging rather to the city of Peterson.

“We’ve had the benefit of legal counsel in preparing this,” noted Smaby holding up a packet. “We wanted to explain to you in person why we have an interest.”

Councilor Gordy Johnson cautioned the city not to jump the gun. “We’ve been down this road before, on both sides. In order to maintain a relationship with Peterson, this would need to be done orderly. We rely on each other.”

“Both cities would have to agree,” added Schwanke. “This would need to be a concurrent agreement. We need to be cautious of not suggesting to Peterson that we’re trying to take something away from them.” In response, Smaby indicated that a Peterson councilor has long asked her why the property isn’t already part of the Village.

The City of Peterson has not discussed the petition yet, but it is slated for the December 11 council meeting agenda. A public hearing on an annexation would also be required. The Village council informally indicated that should there be no issues from the city of Peterson, there would likely be no issues from their end.

The next regularly scheduled Rushford Village council meeting is December 17, at 7 p.m., at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.

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