In September, Kenyon’s City Council reviewed its proposed 2020 operating budget, after hearing from each department head about proposed budget changes.

Similar to last year, there is expected to be a 6.6% property tax levy increase. City Administrator Mark Vahlsing said the estimate doesn’t include this year’s property assessments. Once those are included, the actual levy would lower if property values have risen overall. The levy and final budget will be up for final adoption at the Dec. 10 council meeting.

Vahlsing said the 6.6% increase, before assessments, would leave the city in a tight spot and encouraged the council to consider a slightly larger preliminary levy increase at the Sept. council meeting. The council adopted a maximum preliminary 2020 levy of $1.01 million. This represents a 6.6% increase over the 2019 levy of $949,570. This amount cannot be increased, though the council can reduce the levy increase before the end of this year. The final levy must be approved by the end of December.

Counties, cities over 500 in population, school districts and metropolitan special taxing districts are required to hold a meeting where the budget and levy is discussed.

Next year, two street construction projects are scheduled. There will be bond financing available for both projects. The first debt payments don’t need to be made until 2021, at the earliest. The budget also shows a 3% increase in sewer rates and a 15% increase in storm sewer rates. These increases will be part of the debt service for the Red Wing Avenue project. The increases are included as projected revenue in the 2020 budget. They will be on the agenda for formal action at the January 2020 council meeting.

Fire contract meeting with townships

A special meeting Dec. 3 gave townships representatives the chance to review and ask questions about the proposed 2020 fire contracts.

Currently the Kenyon Fire Department serves six townships: Cherry Grove, Holden, Kenyon, Warsaw, Richland and Wheeling. The formula for the proposed fire contracts used is 51% paid by the city, with the townships covering the remaining 49%. Each township’s contribution level is based on the number of sections served by the Kenyon Fire Department.

During the meeting, Fire Chief Lee Skillstad and Assistant Chief Wayne Ehrich went through the new fire contract and answered questions about equipment and donations.

The breakdown by townships is as follows: Cherry Grove 8.86%, Holden 25.32%, Kenyon 26.16%, Warsaw 4.22%, Richland 30.38% and Wheeling 5.06%.

The difference between 2019 at $63,259 and 2020 at $65,331, is about $2,100. As of Dec. 3, the Fire Department responded to 166 calls, a decrease from the 200 in previous years, with seven fire calls, leaving the majority medical calls.

Among the different areas of response, the city of Kenyon had 104 calls, Kenyon Township had seven, Richland Township had 16 calls, followed by Holden Township with 10 calls, Wanamingo and Wheeling with one call apiece and Cherry Grove with three calls. Skillestad reported that in some cases, if the township was not entered in the drop down menu, it will default to the city of Kenyon, so the breakdown may not be accurate.

The department is looking to replace its 1980 tender tanker, with another tandem axle truck with the capability to hold 2,000 gallons of water. It’s found no issues with the truck and the capacity of having the water available in rural areas is beneficial to those in need. It will be looking into more in depth to replace it within a year or two.

Seven new firefighters have joined the department and are in need of turnout gear. These items will get worked into the upcoming budget for 2020. The current capital balance is $245,097. Next years budget includes a $57,500 capital outlay. With that outlay the capital balance next year would be $302,597.

According to businessdictionary.com, a capital outlay is “Money spent to acquire, maintain, repair, or upgrade capital assets. Capital assets, also known as fixed assets, may include machinery, land, facilities, or other business necessities that are not expended during normal use.”

Several township board chairs expressed concern over being able to see that their special donations are go directly to the Fire Department, so they can report to back taxpayers that the money is going where it should.

Administrator Vahlsing said he will provide that information in the reports moving forward.

Reach reporter Michelle Vlasak at 507-333-3128 or follow her on Twitter @apgmichelle. ©Copyright 2019 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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