Golden Valley City Council approves 2013 budget, levy

The Internal Revenue Service building in Washington, D.C, has the following words engraved on it: “Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.”

Taxpayers in Golden Valley were recently given an estimated receipt for the civilization that the $103.42 monthly tax bill from a median-value home ($230,000) purchases every month: $20.96 for police services, $19.24 for debt service on streets, $16.85 for public works, $14.52 for administration, $6.86 for fire and inspection, $4.99 for parks and recreation, $4.50 for debt service on equipment, and so on.

The information was included in a presentation before the Golden Valley City Council unanimously approved the city’s 2013 budget and tax levy Dec. 4. Next year’s budget calls for $15.3 million, up $284,680 (1.89 percent) from the 2012 budget. Due to a combination of factors, the average homeowner in Golden Valley could see a $40 decrease in city taxes in 2013 (about $3.33 per month).

Finance Director Sue Virnig said that the budget increase was due to salary increases for employees (set at 1 percent, except police, who are unionized), $7,000 in credit card fees and $21,000 in legal fee increases.

The city’s total tax levy (made up of a combination of various levy and bond payments) is set at $16.9 million, up 3.26 percent compared to 2012. Some of that cost includes $300,000 from a tax abatement levy stemming from General Mills expanding its headquarters.

Looking towards the next few years, Virnig said the city faces a variety of challenges, including a potential $2 billion state budget shortfall starting in 2014.

“We don’t know how that gap will be filled, or how it will affect the city,” she said.

Other possible challenges include tax classification changes, reductions in state aid, a slower-than-expected economic recovery, rising fuel costs and inflation.

Virnig said that she had received four calls from people concerned about taxes. One of them, Howard Tarkow, was on hand to share his comments regarding an 18.3 percent increase in his taxes. He and his wife put a kitchen in their home, and he doesn’t think it is fair that some taxpayers are seeing an increase while the majority are seeing a slight decrease.

“The bottom line here is that it seems really disproportionate to nail a property owner with an almost 20 percent increase given that almost three quarters of real estate parcels are seeing a decrease,” he said. “It doesn’t seem fair. Please keep in mind that in 2010 we got hit with (a variety of) assessments. It’s a lot of money to own a house in Golden Valley.”

“One of the toughest things for Mr. Tarkow is that he saw an increase when most of city saw a decrease,” Virnig said. “Commercial properties were in the same boat. One of the hardest things that staff have had to deal with is that values are going down, but taxes are going up, and that’s because we need $16 million to run the city. That’s how property taxes work.”

No other comments were taken regarding the budget and levy, and both were unanimously approved.

During its Dec. 4 meeting, the Golden Valley City Council also:

• Presented a Certificate of Excellence to Community Service Office Phillip Ozmun. Ozmun was on his way home from work Oct. 6 when he spotted a burglary suspect’s vehicle on Highway 55 and Glenwood Avenue. He followed them until they were arrested.

“While other officers were out looking for these suspects, Phil just got off work and casually found them on his own,” said Golden Valley Police Chief Stacy Carlson. “He usually does his work at the front desk, but he was showing off a bit.”

• Unanimously approved a proclamation recognizing former Sun-Post editor Sue Webber for 36 years spent covering Golden Valley. She retired this fall.

“Thank you for your years of service to the community,” said Mayor Shep Harris. “We could list everything, but that would take a long time.”

“My dad saw something so special in you,” said Council Member Joanie Clausen, referring to her father, Ray Stockman, who served on the city council 1966-1972 and 1978-1993. “Not just for the city of Golden Valley, but for my dad and myself and the difference you made … you will always have a special place in my heart.”

The council made “a unanimous motion” before approving the item.

“By habit, you are welcome to stay throughout the entire council meeting,” Harris joked after the vote.