The Canton City Council made quick work of its agenda on Wednesday evening, October 11, as the councilmembers reviewed the topics of the 2024 budget, a new code of ordinances and the upcoming hearing regarding an increase in utility and garbage rates.
Clerk Anne Koliha told the council that she has been continuing to work on the budget, considering the 11% tax levy increase that was approved at the September meeting. Those funds, however, are the maximum amount the final levy can be and the council and clerk will continue to review the finances to make possible reductions until the final levy is set in December.
“We can start trimming the fat over the next few months,” Koliha said. “Basically, I’m asking for guidance as to what to shoot for, give me a target goal.”
The council pointed out that over the past few years, the levy increases have fallen between 1% and 4%, but was up to 6% a few years ago when the city purchased a backhoe. In a similar situation this year, the city is looking to purchase a plow truck, which will require a larger levy than in past years. “It has to be a little higher to get what we need,” said Mayor Josh Nordsving.
Koliha explained that she will be reviewing the budget and the current year expenditures to see if there are any funds that can be carried over into 2024 to cover future projects or expenses.
Nordsving suggested Koliha shoot for an 8% levy increase for the November meeting. “That would be a start,” he said, “and we can continue to fine tune it down from there.”
Utility Rate Increases
Revisiting the topic of increasing utility rates, Koliha explained that she had reviewed the accounts and discovered that there were no increases to utility rates in either 2019 or 2020. In 2021, an increase was made to water rates and garbage. Increases in sewer rates were made in 2022, but no changes to rates were made in 2023.
At the September meeting, Councilor Kristy Ziegler, who serves on the utility committee, reviewed some proposed changes to the sewer and garbage funds. She explained that the water fund is sustaining itself and no rate changes are recommended for that service.
The sewer fund is operating in a deficit and the utility commission provided three different options for increasing revenue. Current rates include a $35 base charge and a user fee of $3 per 1,000 gallons used.
The first option for change would be to increase the base charge to $38 and the user fee to $5 per 1,000 gallons. This would result in a gain of about $1,200.
Option two would increase the base to $40 and set the user fee to $5 per 1,000 gallons, resulting in a gain of about $5,000.
The third option would be to keep the base rate at $35 and raising the user fee to $7.50 per 1,000, which would result in an increase of about $6,000.
Ziegler asked if the council presents all options to the residents at the hearing in November, or does it make a recommendation to be adopted. Nordsving said he would choose two options to present, to which Koliha agreed. “I think we show the options, but also make a recommendation based on the council’s preference,” she said.
Ziegler and Nordsving said they liked the second option, which spreads the increase evenly over the number of customers.
When discussing changes to the garbage fees, there were also several options, including adding a certain amount to each bin, either 50 cents per bin or 75 cents per bin. Because each customer has a garbage tote and a recycling tote, this would result in a revenue increase of $1 or $1.50 per customer each month. The third option was to increase the garbage fees at 3% a year, correlating to the contracted increase by Richard’s Sanitation.
No decisions were made on this issue and the council will seek public input on the matter during the November meeting.
Basic Code of Ordinances
The council adopted the Minnesota Basic Code of Ordinances, 2023 edition. Koliha explained that the new code would replace all language and references in the city’s current code of ordinances, with the exception of any ordinances the city had changed or updated within the past two years.
She said the code presented by the state has some simplified language as well as changes to ordinances that may have been affected by legislative action.
The council approved printing a summary in the Fillmore County Journal, at which time the code will become official.
In other business, the council hired the accounting firm of Smith Schafer and Associates to handle the city audits for the next three years. Koliha explained she had reached out to four audit companies and three had responded, but only two submitted proposals. The other was Clifton Larson Allen. The council chose Smith Schafer based on the lowest cost of $13,000 a year (on average) and the fact that the company already worked with other small towns in the area, such as Lanesboro and Wykoff.
In his report as mayor, Nordsving said the city has been getting many calls about skunks in town, which they are working on.
Koliha told the council that she had been contacted by the Mabel-Canton School District about holding another joint meeting with the school board and city councils of Mabel and Canton. It was decided Ziegler and Nordsving would represented the Canton council.
Finally, Jon Nordsving from the public works department, reported that there were a few issues with the front electric door at the Canton Town Hall. He has contacted the company the city purchased the door from and is hoping it may still be under warranty.
The next meeting of the Canton City Council will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, November 8, at the Canton town hall.