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Kenyon residents likely to see uptick in property taxes next year

The Kenyon City Council is expected to see an increase to its property tax levy for 2023. The impact on residents will be largely dependent on the change in value to their properties, but most will likely see some kind of increase.

Facing rising personnel costs and the general effects of inflation, Kenyon’s City Council appears set to move ahead with a levy increase that could boost property taxes on a $250,000 home by as much as $180.

As City Administrator Mark Vahlsing took pains to note at the City Council meeting, the levy’s final impact on any one particular homeowner will depend heavily on their individual property valuation — particularly as it compares to other properties throughout Goodhue County.

Across Goodhue County, property valuations are rising at a steep pace well north of 10%. That means that homeowners whose properties are estimated to have increased in value by less than the county average would be less affected by the property tax increase.

“If you look at it, if you didn’t have the valuation increase, that increase might be $100 instead of $150,” Vahlsing said. “The more valuation increase there is, the lower your increase.”

Overall, the levy is expected to increase by about $75,000, or 6.8%. Among the increased expenditures covered by the increased levy will be a 3% overall cost of living increase for full-time employees, step and longevity increases, and a 5% increase to health insurance costs.

Under state statute, the city was required to set a maximum levy by the end of September. Thus, the council could choose to reduce the size of the levy increase should it find unanticipated savings, but it can’t choose to increase the levy from here on out.

More information on the proposed levy increase will also be available at the Truth and Taxation meeting, which the council scheduled as required by law. It will be held at City Hall on Dec. 6 at 6:30 p.m.

In addition to rising personnel costs, one expense the city will also have to deal with next year will be major repairs to City Hall’s roof. After storms this summer, several assessors have determined that the building’s roof failed and repairs are imminently needed.

Vahlsing said that simply reshingling the roof would cost around $25,000 to $30,000. He warned the council that very little of that would be covered by insurance because even though the damage necessitated a full roof replacement, it only directly impacted a small part of the roof.

An alternative would be for the Council to invest in metal roofing. Vahlsing warned that this option would be more expensive, at up to $50,000. However, he also expressed a preference for the steel roofing, arguing it would be the best investment long-term.

“I think it’s something that will last a lot longer and be a much better fit for a commercial building,” he said.

The council also voted to fund two important infrastructure projects, one of which has already been completed and the other which is expected to get underway next year. The council paid Bolton and Menk for work done to improve drainage on North Street to the tune of about $45,000.

In addition, the city is moving ahead with plans to improve and reroute the Pearl Creek Sanitary Sewer Main. At the Aug. 30 special meeting, the council decided to move ahead with the project, a part of the city’s CIP, as it was viewed as an urgent project.

Rerouting the sewer main won’t be easy. Nearly $120,000 has been allocated for design work on the project, and the city will have to work with three separate property owners, in order to achieve the land rights needed to bring the project to fruition.

Kenyon-Wanamingo School Board fine tunes preparation, safety plans
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(File photo/

With classes now underway, the Kenyon-Wanamingo School Board used its first meeting of the 2022-23 school year to fine tune its plans to keep students safe over the next nine months.

While nothing will be formally approved until the board holds a formal meeting later this month, it appears that both the District’s Crisis Management Plan and Return to School Plan will be approved with minimal changes from last year.

The Crisis Management Plan is revisited by the board at the beginning of each year, and the Return to School Plan was revisited in order for the district to receive funding under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) program passed as part of the federal American Rescue Plan in the wake of COVID-19.

Under the Return to School Plan, essentially no COVID-era restrictions remain in place. Of course, that could change at any time should there be a severe outbreak of the virus, as the plan commits K-W to collaboration with local public health officials.

The district is continuing to recommend COVID-19 vaccinations, but they’re not required. Rigorous cleaning will be conducted to help stop the spread of COVID, and those who are sick are asked to stay home and report their illness to the school nurse.

In addition, the Minnesota State High School League has its own protocol, which Kenyon-Wanamingo’s many student-athletes will need to follow. If a student tests positive for COVID-19, they are required to refrain from athletic participation for five days and potentially longer, depending on the results of subsequent testing.

The school’s Crisis Management Plan provoked more conversation at the board’s meeting. It’s designed to lay out a plan for school officials and staff to follow, ensuring a response that is as organized and calm as possible in the event of a fire, tornado, shooting or other emergency.

Board Chair Tonya Craig emphasized that bringing students who are new to the district up to speed on the basics of the plan as soon as possible is crucial. Of course, many of the items in the 40-page plan address specific situations and primarily provide guidance for staff.

Craig said it’s particularly important that, depending on the type of emergency, students find their way to the reunification site as soon as possible. Both Wanamingo and Kenyon have their own designated reunification sites serving the elementary and middle/high school respectively.

The reunification sites are intended to ensure an orderly evacuation and enable those not directly affected by the emergency to be quickly accounted for, minimizing the number of resources needed to account for the safety of all students and staff.

“If there’s any sort of emergency that happens at the school, we don’t want students going to their vehicles or going to a friend’s house,” she said.

In addition, Craig said that it’s important that the door number be posted on the inside as well as the outside of each classroom. Again, that would ensure that any emergency response can be as quickly as possible in the event of a school lockdown or other similar situation.

“In an emergency situation where students or staff are barricaded in a classroom, emergency personnel should have a map of buildings,” she said. “Still, we need to make sure interior doors have room numbers on both the inside and outside of the doors.”