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

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Welcome Back

I had the privilege to help welcome our 911 School Districts Staff back to school this morning. Unfortunately it was not my best public speaking event. I do want to express my support for district teachers and staff.

At the last City Council meeting I declared August 30th Isanti Teacher and Staff Day. There will be a lunch in our teachers' and staff's honor at Community Pride Bank. The lunch will be 11:30 to 1pm. I will be presenting the signed proclamations to the three Isanti principals.

Isanti Fall Music Fest

Isanti is hosting the 5th annual Fall Music Fest September 15, 2006 on Main Street. Once again, the Festival will offer a classic car show, street vendors, a street dance featuring the White Sidewalls and a beer garden.

The Isanti Fall Music Fest Committee is continuing on the path of making this festival enjoyable for all ages. The Festival will have family friendly activities such as various street vendors, moonwalk, potato painting, face painting, duck pond, scavenger hunt, sack racing, and tug of war. New Activities for all ages this year are a Cake Walk and The Chicken Raffle. I am looking forward to this great city event.

If you have any questions please contact Isanti Fall Music Fest Chairperson Jan Peterson at 763-444-9090.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

August 21st Budget Special Session Update

The budget session tonight started out quietly and slowly and end in a burst of fury. After the presentation by the the Finance Director I opened the floor to the Council Members. I asked for any comments or suggestions. Hearing none I offered to layout my suggestions for reductions in new spending.

That phrase is key. Reduction in new spending. I laid out specific reductions totaling $253,496. I also asked that $100,000 be transferred from the liquor store fund which currently has $602,000. The total effect of the cost cuts and liquor store transfer would give Isanti a levy of 60.3% or almost a 5% property tax reduction. The initial budget proposal asked for nearly a 70% levy. This 5% increase in taxes is not acceptable.

The reductions in new spending were not easy. We are delaying the hiring of a police investigator for a least one year. This equates to a savings of $78,011 and $15,000 towards a city car. We still be adding one new police position. There was a staff request for a new part time secretary...this was rejected. Another tough decision was to reduce the amount of money the city gives to other non/not for profit and charitable groups. The number was $20,000 and this was reduced by half.

The last major area that was reduced was the equipment replacement schedule. The city has always under funded this area. Our goal is to fully fund but this will have to be eased into. We are increasing our replacement funds but will not be able to go the whole way in one year. If more funds become available or the city's LGA increases after a legislative special session, I will ask that the money goes towards the replacement funds.

None of this is fun or easy. Tough decisions have to be made to control city spending in a time of dramatic cuts in city revenue. The average property tax levy in the state is 55%. Isanti is the 15 highest taxed locality in greater Minnesota. Our current tax levy is 64.718%. My goal is to reduce our tax levy to the state average in three years. We are half way there in the first year. We should not kid ourselves however, the last 5% will be much tougher than the first 5%. CM's Duff and Kolb voted with me to reduce spending and lower taxes. CM's Johnson and Larson voted against reducing spending and against lowering taxes. The end of the session tonight ended in a heated exchange unfortunately and the vote was quite tense.

The other thought to leave you with is the increasing commercial development. These businesses will start coming on the tax rolls in the next two years helping to bring balance to our property tax base. Businesses pay 50% more in taxation per the same value as residential property and use less services.

We are faced with a simply but harsh reality. LGA and building fees are drastically reduced. We can either reduce spending or increase taxes. I believe we made the right decision.

August 21st Council Update

I wanted to update you on two items from tonight's meeting. The first item is the new liquor store. Building a new liquor in the end did not make financial sense. The $1,800,000 bonded debt and the $200,000 to $300,000 in cash the city would have spent did not bring the city and new revenue. We would have forgone roughly $40,000 in salary offsets and $100,000 in property tax relief per year.

The store would be able to reach roughly $40,000 in added revenue to the city by 2012 if the projections hold up. This is still $100,000 short of where we are today. I can not see spending so much for so small of a return in the future. This was a tough decision and the split vote reflects the debate. In the end council members' Duff and Kolb and I voted against building a new store. CM Johnson and Larson made good arguments in favor but I just could not agree. This was tough and a lot of work went into the process. It is always difficult to see a project not be completed but good money after bad is an even worse decision.

The other item of note is the discussion on the Community Center. We talked about the longevity and the need to fix the roof. I want to commend CM Johnson and Duff on their work on this project and for continuing to tackle this project.

Josh Fedder of Million Dollar Homes and Jan Peterson of Realty Executives Northland volunteered to help find support in the building community for the project. This type of volunteering is one of the many reason's our Community is so strong. I want to thank Jan and Josh and hope everyone recognizes their efforts.

Nominate Great Yards

Don't forget to nominate yards for the Mayor's Great Yard Award. Email me with your nominations. george@georgewimmer.com

Monday, August 20, 2007

August 21st Council Meeting

There are three items from the August 21st Council Agenda I want to discuss.

The first item is the Liquor Store Project. I had voted to support the first phase of this project. This included getting construction plans, construction budget and how a plan to pay for the project. The initial information seemed to show the project would pay for itself and still continue to bring in ever increasing revenue to the general fund. The numbers I have reviewed do not support this conclusion.

The increase in sales that would occur would not pay the associated debt for the store in the first 4 years. This would have a significant impact on each years budget leading to higher property taxes or greater cuts in other city services.

The two funding options are a level 20 year payment schedule, akin to a fix rate mortgage, or a 20 year end loaded payment schedule, akin to a hybrid of a fix and an adjustable rate mortgage. I do not believe it is fair to saddle the next generation with balloon payments for what will be at the time an almost 20 year old building. This will setup the situation when major repairs are needed the city will be paying the highest payments.....

It would be easy to leave the debt payments for the next generation to worry about, but I cannot.....I do not believe it is responsible for us to get a short term gain at our children's expense.

The next item is a reform of the nuisance noise ordinance. I just wanted to keep you informed as ordinances are improved. Any questions please let me know.

The last item is a debate on the Community Center. The council will be discussing what changes/improvements are needed. The discussion will also look at the long term view of renovation and longevity of the facility. I welcome your comments.

Update on Updates

The Council and budget updates will be published tonight. The last budget meeting is 5:30 at City Hall Tuesday the 21st.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

40,000 Milestone Reached

I was on vacation for a few days and came back to see that the Blog has passed the 40,000 visit milestone. Just thought you would like to know...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

August 8th Council Update

The new fee schedule was passed by a 3-2 vote. As predicted Council Members Johnson and Larson voted against. I have written so much on this topic I will simply conclude by saying with the passing of the new schedule, residential development comes much closer to paying for itself.

I was presented with a $500 check from the Rotary Club to help fund handicapped accessible picnic tables for Isanti parks. This was wonderful donation and I would like to thank the Rotary and Greg Owens of Community Pride Bank for presenting the check.

I read a portion of a letter from MnDot promising their support for the Pedestrian Bridge project. The commitment is at least $200,000. This helps dramatically reduce our local match from Park and Recreation dedication fees. The commitment is based upon the regional benefits of this project. There is still a lot of work to do on the project but I am committed to leaving Isanti with a completed trail system, including a pedestrian bridge.

The last item of note I want to mention is that the Council approved a moratorium on peddlers licenses. I asked for this because of the complaints I have received. I was further troubled when I was informed the City issues these licenses to anyone that applies. I felt the City should take greater responsibility to do some background checking before we license someone to go door to door selling products or services. I also wanted to have a system to track complaints.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

National Night Out Thank you.

There was a great crowd at National Night Out tonight. A number of games and raffle prizes along with plenty of food for all helped make tonight a success. I would like to thank the Police reserves and the Police department for hosting the event.

I met some residents for the first time tonight and was able to answer a few questions. It was a lot of fun and I look forward to next year.

Council is Wednesday this Week

Council is Wednesday night due to National Night Tuesday.

The proposed fee increases will be voted on. This is critical to our financial future. A no vote to making development pay for itself is a vote to increase taxes, plain and simple.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Isanti's Fiscal Future Part 2

I was contemplating changing this work to discuss the damaging effects of the 21% reduction in Local Government Aid (LGA) we were notified of last week. I decided to stick with my original topic for this piece. In part three of Isanti’s Fiscal Future I will tie the complete financial picture together and layout my budget changes that will keep us on the path to a 55% levy rate in three years. Isanti is currently at a 65% levy rate and as of 2006 was the 15th highest taxed locality in greater Minnesota.

The great myth of rapid residential growth is that it pays for itself or eventually pays for itself. The numbers speak for themselves in cities across this state and country. As I have stated numerous times in the past, current residents are heavily subsidizing residential growth. The outcome has been higher taxes and a higher proportion of the city’s budget coming from property taxes. In 2001 Isanti’s tax payers paid for 45% of the overall budget. 2002, the first year experiencing the effects of the rapid growth, the percent from taxpayers shot up to 73% of the total budget. 2001 to 2008 follows:

2001---45%
2002---73%
2003---72%
2004---72%
2005---69%
2006---64%
2007---68%
2007---71%

2007 is an estimate based off of year to date and the 2008 number is the current proposed budget.

The revised current proposed budget has a 5% tax increase. I cannot support such a budget. All evidence points to the fact that Isanti is already heavily taxed and for added measure our sewer and water rates are also quite high. I have identified budget cuts equaling a 6% reduction in the proposed budget. This however is only a 1% actual cut in property taxes. This again is the result of LGA cuts. Based on the current funding and formula Isanti may expect a further LGA cut next year. Therefore we must continue cut cost.

I will be indentifying more cuts in the next month to reduce the proposed budget by 10% resulting in an effective 5% levy reduction. This levy reduction will take us to an effective rate of 60%, leaving two more years to reach my goal of 55%. Please take note that the greatest cuts are in the first year of my plan. I am always amused by budget or deficit reduction plans that show the greatest cuts at the end of a plan and usually occur when the person proposing such a plan is no longer in office.

"There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all." Peter Drucker

This quote states better than I ever could the next difficult decision we need to make. Isanti has been funding a few organizations in just the last couple years. We have also been approached by several others. The word is out that the City is open to funding charities and non/not for profits.

These are noble pursuits but in many cases simply not what city taxpayer money is for. In some cases the county is or should be funding these groups. This sets up the unfortunate circumstance that city taxpayers are paying twice. The magic formula for many of these groups is a dollar person or roughly $5,000 per group.

Here is a partial list of organizations the city has help fund or has received request to fund.

Isanti County Historical society
Community Involvement Team
Friends of the Library
Family Pathways
Refuge Network
Redbirds
Rum River BMX
Jubilee Days

Please also note that the funding has only started in the last couple years. Even though it has been a few short years the vested interest makes it sound as though we have been doing it for a millennium and they are entitled to your taxes. Again these are all great groups. The question is, should the city give charitable donations of taxpayer money? It is tough to say no.

Some groups like the Redbirds and Rum River BMX bring in people from the region to Isanti and provide activities far cheaper than the city could. I have addressed this in the Park and Recreation budget by providing an initial amount to help such groups but make it part of the budget process so tradeoffs can be made. I have also proposed to cut this amount in half as we face tougher budget numbers due to LGA cuts this year.

To be sure we must understand each dollar the city gives is one more dollar in taxes that must be raised. Is charity a government service or an individual decision? No one likes to say no and be labeled a scrooge but we must remember what our mandate is as a city and protect our taxpayers’ money like a sacred trust.

I proposed the elimination of a building inspector earlier this year and will be asking that we eliminate other proposed staff increases and other cost. All budget items must be on the table for reduction.

Now we have discussed the general situation and the overall tax and cost reductions. The specific cuts will be laid out in part three. The other side of the equation is commercial growth. Commercial growth is important for three main reasons. Providing much needed tax base, job opportunities and products/service our residents need and want.

Commercial property pays 50% more in taxes than residential and uses less city services; ergo cost less to the taxpayers. Isanti is far behind in commercial growth. I have made expanding business opportunity my number one priority. Only through growing our industrial and commercial districts will Isanti have a solid base of revenue to fund the services our citizens want and need.

We have had a number of important ground breakings this year and I look forward to many more. The industrial and commercial business base we are currently developing will provide the tax base, jobs and products/services Isanti needs.

I have been visiting Isanti businesses with the Isanti Area Chamber President to learn what works and does not work and extending my help so they may thrive and expand. I have also been working hard to bring in new industrial and commercial businesses. The fruit of these efforts is also ripening, bringing a brighter future for our great city.

Together we can accomplish anything. Only together can we make the hard decisions that will take us forward. There may be a hard fight in the near future over this budget. Hopefully we can come to an agreement. I ask that each citizen and taxpayer consider carefully the decisions that have to be made. The budget we create for 2008 will either put us on the right path to the future or damn us to continue the mistakes of the past.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

National Night Out


National Night Out
Tuesday
August 07, 2007 at 6:30 PM

Potluck dinner.

The night will include games and prizes!

Location:
Isanti Community Center

Any questions please contact me:
George@GeorgeWimmer.com or 763-444-7158

Friday, August 03, 2007

Isanti's Fiscal Future Part 2 Coming August 6th

I will have the second installment of the Isanti's Fiscal Future published August 6th. The 21% reduction in Local Government Aid will have a dramatic impact on the budget. LGA has doubled in the previous 5 years becoming a significant portion of total revenues. The LGA cut will force the City to make tough economic decisions.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

LGA Update

Well the capacity numbers came in higher yesterday. Today we received bad news. Our LGA number is down over 20%. This is a hole in the budget that will need to be addressed. Tough budget decisions will need to be made.