After seeing a significant decrease in spending in 2019, the city of Isanti has set its preliminary levy at an increase of nearly $600,000 for 2020 at its Sept. 3 meeting.

The levy for Isanti residents, which equates to a 24.09% increase over last year, reflects an increase in the preliminary taxable market value for 2020 of 15.09%, according to Finance Director Mike Betker.

The proposed preliminary tax rate for 2020 is 67.81%, an increase of 7.7% from 2019, according to Betker.

He noted that the average tax rate from 2005 through 2019 was 68.5%.

The budget includes a general fund levy in the amount of $2 million, a capital maintenance levy in the amount of $256,000, a street construction levy of $267,000, an abatement levy of $24,066, and an EDA levy of $79,816. Although money has been levied for capital maintenance and street construction in the past, those levies have been included in the general fund levy, explained Betker. However, this year, each of those categories will be a separate fund.

The final levy and budget will be discussed and adopted at the Dec. 3, 2019, Isanti City Council meeting.

Council approves contracts for legal services

The council officially took action, terminating the contract for civil and prosecutorial legal services with Clark Joslin, who has been the city attorney for Isanti for decades.

The council then approved contracts with Ratwik, Roszik & Maloney and GDO Law for the city’s civil and prosecuting services, respectively. Their contracts will be for five years, effective starting Sept. 30.

Under terms of the termination agreement, Joslin will be able to charge the city his most-recently contracted rate of $140 per hour for any transitional communication between him and the new attorneys.

Council member Steve Lundeen thanked Joslin for his services throughout the years.

Joslin thanked the council for the opportunity to serve the city, as well as wishing the city of Isanti well in the future.

Resident voices concern over fireworks 

Isanti resident Morgan Fedora addressed the council regarding the use of illegal fireworks within the city and the potential harm they can cause to residents.

She noted that a recent bout of fireworks in her neighborhood nearly killed her dog, which is a service animal protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

She offered some solutions for the community’s fireworks problem, one being public awareness with a story in the local newspaper, information in the city newsletter and via the city’s social media.

Another solution would be to rewrite the city ordinance and attach significant fines to those who choose to use fireworks against city ordinance.

A third solution would be to offer a small reward and to protect the privacy of citizens who report those using illegal fireworks.

“These fireworks are just menacing to the point of it’s cost me $1,300 in emergency vet care in the last week,” Fedora said. “I thought Jack was going to die.”

She said the cost to replace Jack, a trained service dog, would cost nearly $50,000.

She added that fireworks are hard on veterans, as well, some of whom suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. 

“We have the opportunity here to be a leader of communities by making this safer,” Fedora said. “Not only does it make it safer for our community and our animals, but it also makes it safer for our firefighters and our police officers,” referring to the potential for fires with illegal fireworks.

Fedora offered to assist the city in any way she could in writing and enforcing the ordinance.

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