Isanti City Council takes second stab at final levy

An error in the final 2021 levy that was approved by the Isanti City Council during the Dec. 1 council meeting prompted the council to call for a last-minute emergency meeting on Monday, Dec. 28 in order to correct the mistake. All final levies must be turned in to the county by the end of December.

According to a memo sent to City Administrator Josi Wood, Isanti Finance Director Mike Betker said he discovered the final levy was in fact $29,566 over the preliminary levy adopted by the council in September. The final levy cannot exceed the preliminary adopted levy. The memo also stated the council must approve a levy that matches the preliminary levy in order to rectify the error. 

The correction would lead to a 1% reduction in the tax rate compared to 2020, and reduce the fund balance for the 2021 budget by $29,566, according to the memo.

During discussion, Gordon stated he had the same questions he had in September regarding $450,000 being levied for future potential restrooms and an amphitheater. He told the council he had discussed it with Betker, and reducing the levy by $450,000 would lead to a reduction of approximately $230 per parcel for Isanti taxpayers.

It was also his opinion that if the council did not reduce the levy by $450,000, the money should instead go toward building up the city’s fund balance rather than being earmarked for potential future restrooms and amphitheater.

Council Member Paul Bergley said he was against reducing the levy.

“My only reason for wanting it to go forward is because I’m not ready to kill it yet,” Bergley said, noting if the levy was reduced, it would be impossible for the council to even consider going forward with these projects in 2021.

“For right now, we should just accept the levy the way it is, we’re giving them a 1% tax decrease, we could transfer that money at a later time,” said Council Member Steve Lundeen. “I don’t have a lot of time today to sit and discuss doing this and this and that, so I propose that we just accept the tax levy as is and move forward.”

Mayor Jeff Johnson agreed with Lundeen, adding he felt they should continue to earmark the money specifically for those projects.

“I understand we could just put it in the general fund,” Johnson said. “But to me, it would be more easier to spend that money if we put it in the general fund, versus earmarking it for a specific item.”

City Administrator Josi Wood explained that, although the $450,000 is earmarked for those projects, it is still in the general fund and the council could transfer it to the fund balance at any time. 

The council passed a resolution adopting the new final levy 3-1, with Council Member Jimmy Gordon voting against the resolution; Council Member Dan Collison was not in attendance. 

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