About Me

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I have served the City of Isanti as Mayor since 2007. We have accomplished great things together and I look forward to building on our success. United, we move forward to a better future. You may contact me at 763-442-8749 or e-mail me at george@georgewimmer.com. My website is www.georgewimmer.com

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Budget Update

We have the new tax capacity numbers. The proposed tax increase is not just over 1%. Still to high when a tax cut is needed but moving in the right direction.

Special City Council Budget Session Tonight

The Council has its first budget session tonight 5:30.

The Departments covered are City Planning, Building Inspections, Mayor/Council, Economic Development and Finance/Administration departments and our City debt.

A few points as we start tonight. The proposed budget has a 6% increase in spending and a 3.61% tax increase. Both of these numbers are unacceptable. I have identified $200,000 in spending cuts to date. I am still working to reduce further cost.

Tonight's and the next budget session are to listen to staff's request. The Council then needs to prioritize spending decisions. The amount the Council decides to spend will determine Isanti's property tax levy rate. Isanti currently has a 64.7% levy rate. I have been working to reduce city property taxes since I was first elected to the Council. My 2006 long range fiscal plan has a 55% levy rate goal. This would take Isanti from being the 15th highest taxed locality in greater Minnesota to one of the most competitive tax rates in all of Minnesota.

In my second installment of Isanti's Fiscal Future I will detail the city's effective tax rate in comparison to the rest of the state and the competitive disadvantage we face. I will also discuss trends that do not bode well for Isanti.

We must also be aware that the City is going through a new assessment by the County. We may think this would lead to lower values and taxes but the opposite has been seen throughout the state. Sale prices are going down but valuation keep marching forwarded due to the delayed reaction time of the assessment process. This leads to the troublesome possibility that sale prices go down, tax levys go down but if assessments go up the actual tax you pay may also go up.

Government must be as lean and cost effective as possible now more than ever.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Celebrety Donkey Races

The Celebrity Donkey Race I was talked into was quite a bit of fun. Things got going about an hour late but when it did we were all in for a lot of laughs. The Donkey I was assigned to ride was what they call a dunker. He would trot along then stop on a dime and lower his head to dunk me off the front. He was successful about half a dozen times. Unfortunately I have no pictures of my falls. If you have any please let me know. I would like to post them. Here are a few pictures I have---
Alexander watching Dad walking to the starting line

It was a brief lead


My research into alternative modes of transportation comes to an end




Thursday, July 26, 2007

Watering Ban Lifted

Total watering ban is lifted...we are back to the normal every other day watering. Thank you for your patience

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tax Quotes

I thought a few quotes on taxes would help put things in perspective on the eve of our budget discussions.

If you make any money, the government shoves you in the creek once a year with it in your pockets, and all that don't get wet you can keep. ~Will Rogers

Taxation with representation ain't so hot either. ~Gerald Barzan

The taxpayer - that's someone who works for the federal government but doesn't have to take the civil service examination. ~Ronald Reagan

America is a land of taxation that was founded to avoid taxation. ~Laurence J. Peter

I'm proud to pay taxes in the United States; the only thing is, I could be just as proud for half the money. ~Arthur Godfrey

Why does a slight tax increase cost you two hundred dollars and a substantial tax cut save you thirty cents? ~Peg Bracken

The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has. Even when you make a tax form out on the level, you don't know when it's through if you are a crook or a martyr. ~Will Rogers

Unquestionably, there is progress. The average American now pays out twice as much in taxes as he formerly got in wages. ~H.L. Mencken

The nation should have a tax system that looks like someone designed it on purpose. ~William Simon

We must care for each other more, and tax each other less. ~Bill Archer

Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors... and miss. ~Robert Heinlein

The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to get the most feathers with the least hissing. ~Jean Baptist Colbert, attributed

What at first was plunder assumed the softer name of revenue. ~Thomas Paine

Did you ever notice that when you put the words "The" and "IRS" together, it spells "THEIRS?" ~Author Unknown

We have long had death and taxes as the two standards of inevitability. But there are those who believe that death is the preferable of the two. "At least," as one man said, "there's one advantage about death; it doesn't get worse every time Congress meets." ~Erwin N. Griswold

The point to remember is that what the government gives it must first take away. ~John S. Coleman, address, Detroit Chamber of Commerce, 1956

Philosophy teaches a man that he can't take it with him; taxes teach him he can't leave it behind either. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966

The best things in life are free, but sooner or later the government will find a way to tax them. ~Author Unknown

The government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it. ~Ronald Reagan

There's nothing wrong with the younger generation that becoming taxpayers won't cure. ~Dan Bennett\

A fine is a tax for doing something wrong. A tax is a fine for doing something right. Author Unknown

First Budget Work Session

The first Isanti City budget work session is Tuesday July 31st 5:30 at Isanti City Hall. We will be going through department by department starting with Administration and Community Development.

The Departments covered are City Planning, Park and Recreation, Building Inspections, Mayor/Council, Economic Development and Finance/Administration departments.

Watering Ban

WATER ALERT

WEDNESDAY - July 25, 2007

TOTAL WATERING BAN EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY

NOTIFICATION WILL BE GIVEN WHEN BAN IS LIFTED
From Isanti City Hall

Friday, July 20, 2007

Repost Veteran's Picnic

Veterans Hog Roast & Picnic

Where:
Isanti’s Bluebird Park
When:
Saturday, July 21stfrom 12:00 pm till Dusk

Sponsored by Jaysen Guthmueller'sAmerican Family Insurance of Isanti

Donations accepted to help Veteran's in need

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Interesting turn of Events

I was able to present the Mayor's Choice award to the Isanti Cub Scout Troop tonight. A great part of being Mayor is to help promote the positives of Isanti and be a Goodwill Ambassador.

Now for the interesting turn of events--- The discussion centered on the proposed fee increases. The arguments that were given I expected such as CM Larson and Johnson making initial statements that they would never vote for any developer or builder fee increases. I countered with the points I raised at http://georgewimmer.blogspot.com/2007/07/isantis-fiscal-future-part-1.html stating that current residents should not subsidize developer cost.

The unexpected argument made by both CM Larson and Johnson was that a reason for what they deemed as high city developer cost was city employee inefficiency.

I was frankly floored. That these two were the ones to raise this concern after they have in the past accused me of being too critical of City staff. I am not sure where their argument will lead but it is interesting.

Staff keeps very good records of all the activity generated by processing developer request. The vast majority of the activity that is generated is by the developer. Some of this is by the natural development of any project. Particular items may change. These changes need to be reviewed. We cannot simply rubber stamp what is presented to the city.

Let’s be very clear. Isanti’s developer fees are low and in some cases the lowest in the area. The fee increases are justified by both the findings of an independent audit and in comparison to our neighboring cities. We face grave financial issues to be sure but these were caused by Council past action and inaction.

The one developer that did come to the meeting stated he knew fees had to rise but wanted them to be time delayed to January 2008 and perhaps not as high as being proposed. I was contacted by developers and builders and all understood that Isanti has low fees and that some type of increases were coming.

So to sum up we have an independent audit saying we have extremely low fees, we are not covering our basic cost and developer and builder community are not fighting tooth and nail against the proposed increases. We are losing money on ever development that is being processed by the City.

We have a simple choice to make. Development pays for itself or the city taxpayer continues to subsidize residential development. I feel like Don Quixote sometimes tipping at windmills. I have made the argument 100 times but we face difficult financial times and we must make residential development pay for itself.

We left the item tabled until the next Council meeting so some of the questions raised tonight can be answered. Then we will make our collective decision about what to do. I did find it ironic that the Council tabled the item…perhaps showing some inefficiency of our own.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Isanti Area Chamber Golf Classic


Isanti Area Chamber
Golf Classic

The Refuge Golf Course
Oak Grove, MN
Monday, Aug. 27
11:00 Registration/Lunch
12:00 Shotgun Start

Qualify for a chance to win
$1,000,000
Call 763-444-8515 for more information

Veteran's Hog Roast & Picnic


Veterans
Hog Roast & Picnic

Where:
Isanti’s Bluebird Park
When:
Saturday, July 21st
from 12:00 pm till Dusk


Sponsored by Jaysen Guthmueller's
American Family Insurance of Isanti

Donations accepted to help Veteran's in need

Council 7/17/07

We had the McDonalds ground breaking today. This is an important business to start generating commercial energy along highway 65.

The Council will be holding a public hearing on annexing 34.44 acres at the SE corner of 301st and highway 65. I have considerable issues with this annexation because it is so far from City water and sewer and the cost are quite high to bring city services to the area.

The next public hearing item is amending the City fee ordinance. I have stated by position on this topic at http://georgewimmer.blogspot.com/2007/07/isantis-fiscal-future-part-1.html.

The last public hearing item is abatement on several properties that have not complied with city nuisance ordinances.

The last item I want to talk about is interim use permits. Interim Use permits for differing commercial uses gives the City greater control and and allows for better planning practices. Any questions let me know.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Isanti's Fiscal Future Part 1

“Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour; a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.” from Common Sense by Thomas Paine.

Thomas Paine’s words of February 1776 seem quite appropriate to Isanti of July 2007. The past decisions to subsidize residential development at the cost of the Taxpayer must end. The rapid residential growth has brought crippling debt to our City. The rusty blunt sword of eminent domain that the Council used in 2005 has inflicted a wound that continues to fester to this day. We have a clear path in front of us that will bring a bright future. We only need to understand the current situation, make the tough choices and be disciplined enough to follow our course.

We are faced with 3 troubling facts:
· Disastrous Debt
· Excessive City Spending
· Low Residential Developer Fees

The $4,540,000 in bonded debt assumed by the City in 2005 for the East 65 expansion was based on 104 residential units being built per year. We have obviously built far fewer than that in the last two years and are on pace for roughly half the number needed. The use of eminent domain, which I voted against, has added hundreds of thousands of dollars in added cost to this project. Isanti will have to bond at least another $1,073,500 to cover the eminent domain and other added cost to the east 65 expansion. The original $4,540,000 bond and its roughly $500,000 yearly debt payment will have to be refinanced. This however will come with a greater long term cost but will allow for a lower yearly payment. The refinancing will be meaningless however if the development fees are not set to cover the debt.

Now let us turn to the excessive City spending of the past few years. The 40% plus in new spending contained in the last two budgets, I voted against both, has set a false pretense. I fear as the budget process goes forward the idea will be firmly set in a number of minds that the current amount being spent is a floor we cannot go under.

We have received only 27% of the expected building fees. This is an important number because it pays several city employees complete salary and portions of many others. We did take action and eliminated one position. I do believe we must look at cutting other cost. There are only three options left if the anticipated fees are not generated---raise property taxes, raise fees or reduce cost. I will be presenting my budget cuts and offsets in August.

Isanti’s property taxes are already too high. This leaves fees and cost reduction. The city has already reduced one position in building inspections to lower ongoing cost. I will continue to work to lower all city cost. There are however a number of developer fees that are considerably low compared to the cost of operations and comparable cities in the area. Several examples of losing money are final platting -$22,844, prelim platting -$4,388 and site plan reviews losing -$3,269. Site plan reviews are a good example—Cambridge charges $500 and Isanti only half that at $250. Isanti’s final plat fees are significantly lower than North Branch, Wyoming, Princeton and Zimmerman. These numbers are based on the Independent Audit of City Fees by Abdo Eick & Meyers LLP. The audit further states that the majority of the costs under the planning department are not covered by fees. This means you and I the taxpayers are subsidizing development through our property taxes. This is flatly wrong.

One of the fees that is often derided by developers is the Park and Recreation fee. Isanti’s current fee is $1,320 for residential and $1,375 for commercial. Again this is a developer fee. Cambridge’s residential is $1,600 and commercial is $2,940 and Princeton is $2,400 residential and $1,000 per acre of commercial. Again Isanti is lashed by developers saying our fees are high and yet the facts show we are low and in some cases the lowest.

I applaud developers for wanting to maximize their profits. The Council however must maximize what is best for the City. We cannot protect the City if we place developer profits ahead of good planning and proper financial stewardship. If developers do not pay the proper fee amount then the current taxpayers are in essence writing a check to the developer on each development.

Now we get to my favorite Trojan Horse of an argument for low fees. The people who are going to be buying these new homes will have higher cost because of higher fees. I would find this plausible if we were all getting rebate checks from the last 7 years when houses were selling for a premium and profits were flying in on each new home sold. Where was the concern for the poor home buyer when prices were seeing double digit increases do to market conditions. Everyone’s home valuations are much higher because of the housing boom. We are all paying higher property taxes because of high valuations even when tax rates decrease. How can I ask our Taxpayers who already pay inflated property taxes to subsidize residential development?

I am asking that the true cost be paid for in the developer fees--- nothing less and nothing more. This is why the council ordered an independent audit of our fees. To simply ignore the facts when presented would be folly. The other boogey man argument being raised is well this could slow or stop residential development. There already is a tremendous slow down because of the housing bubble. We need residential building to slow so the city can catch up to the growth. Also I think everyone should be aware that there are hundreds of existing homes and sites already available. Isanti has a good decade of housing stock in the pipeline already. There is no reason to artificially prime the housing pump.

We must be ready to make the hard decisions. We must cut cost where necessary and make development pay for itself. If we do not do this we are only setting ourselves up for failure. I predicted this moment when I first ran for council 2004. If we simply stick our heads in the sand again this year the repercussions will reverberate for generations to come.

I see that bright future when our financial house is in order. I have been working for Long Term Financial Planning (LTFP) the past few years and we are almost there. My Development Impact List will hopefully be completed this year as well. I was pleased at the beginning of the year when the LTFP was embraced as a City Council goal. With these tools in place and proper discipline we will thrive. We must continue to move forward. Leave the poor decisions of the past in the dust of time.

This is the first of what will be three installments about Isanti's Fiscal Future.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

McDonalds

McDonalds ground breaking is Monday the 16th. The long awaited project will finally start rolling along.

Monday, July 09, 2007

One more Day

I am still waiting to get a few more facts checked for the budget and developer fee issues paper. If you would like to be notified email at george@georgewimmer.com

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Pictures from Dunk Tank and Outhouse Races

Alexander throwing to sink Dad

Taking my seat after Abigail sinks me

The climb out of the water after being dunked


My sponsored Crash Test Dummies came in 2nd in the Outhouse races. They also won the award for best Outhouse. Great job!!!

Ambassador Coronation

Do not forget the Ambassador Coronation today 4pm at the Ice Arena..

Friday, July 06, 2007

June Winners of the Mayor's Great Yard Award

I am happy to announce the winners of the Mayor's Great Yard Award for June:

First Place Andrew Moen Wins $100 and Framed Proclamation

Second Place Craig Nelson Wins $50 and Framed Proclamation

Third Place Melissa Krizan Wins $25 and Framed Proclamation

Landmark Bank provided the monetary awards. We are taking nominations for July. This was a lot of fun and helps to highlight the positives of our community.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Great Weekend II

I will turn back to City business in a few days with a Council update and a number of postings on the numerous fiscal issues and budget shortfalls the city will be facing. I am preparing a paper on the budget and developer fee issues. This will be published on the website http://www.georgewimmer.com/ and portions on the blog Monday night.

I want our focus this week and weekend to be on our great Rodeo and Jubilee celebration. The pig roast starts at the Rodeo grounds at 3pm today. I will be pitching in by helping cut up the meat.

Our parade tonight starts at 6:30. This family fun event is always a great success. I have the privilege of selecting a winner for the Mayor's best float award.

Friday we have the Community Pride picnic 11am to 2pm. Free lunch and kids events are provided.

I will post more on the weekend events Friday.

Any questions, comments or concerns during our Rodeo/Jubilee Days please call me on my cell phone 763-442-8749. I will be out and about the whole time and want to make sure if any issues do arise we address them immediately. Thank you.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Great Week Ahead

We have a busy week ahead of us. Rodeo/Jubilee Days looks be building to another great success. The Rodeo will be bigger and better than ever. For more information go to--- http://www.isantifiredistrict.org/isanti_rodeo_assc_ .

Jubilee Days kicks off with Thursday’s parade and ends with Sunday’s Ambassador Coronation. The Isanti Area Chamber of Commerce has a full schedule at http://www.isantichamber.com/ .

I hope everyone tries to sink me in the dunk tank for charity on Saturday the 7th 10am to 12pm. I will then be calling bingo 12:30 to 3pm at the Community Center.

I was at a neighborhood block party on Saturday at Riverside Park. It was a great success. Carla Duncan and the group did a tremendous job organizing and running the event with over 200 people attending. I have asked that she help me start similar events in or parts of the City.

The Council will be hosting Senator Olseen and Representative Eastlund Tuesday night at 7pm. I will be presenting the prizes for the Mayor’s Great Yard Award winners.

We will once again be dealing with nuisance abatements of numerous properties. A conversion ordinance that mandates all single family property owners need to pay full city fees if they convert to multi-family homes. This would only be allowed in appropriately zoned parts of the City.

I have asked that there be a moratorium on enforcing of an old ordinance not allowing residents from selling their vehicle in their own driveway. I believe if the vehicle is allowed by the city parking ordinance then a person should be able to sell it from their own home.