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, December 31, 2008

Request for Funds

The City of Isanti has received 4 request so far for funds these are the Isanti Area Chamber of Commerce, Friends of the Library, Rum River BMX and the Isanti Community Involvement Team. There will be many more as well.

As part of conserving our City cash on hand until we know just how much LGA will get cut, the Finance Committee has recommended eliminating City donations to all groups. We are expecting to learn more after the February estimates come in and the Governor and Legislature starts putting firm numbers together. The final numbers may not be sent to the City until early summer however and the City needs to preserve cash on hand. We will earn more than $70,000 in interest alone for 2009 from our cash investments and our cost to borrow is already saving our taxpayers with our new A+ bond rating. If we burn through a large sum of our cash not only do we lose the one time funds but we also lose out on the interest revenue income it generates necessitating more cuts.

The City budget financial report and Truth - Taxation hearing materials are available on the City website:

http://cityofisanti.us/govern_city_departments_finance.php

Be Safe Tonight

I wanted to pass along the Safe Cab information and hope everyone has a fun and safe New Year.

Cambridge Cab Company

http://www.cambridgecab.net/

We are also the official provider of the Isanti County Safe Cab program to reduce deaths, injuries and DUI arrests. Since 2005 we have provided free rides to over 1,500 passengers and lowered the DUI rate over 60% from the establishments that use the Safe Cab program the most! Ask your server if they participate in the Safe Cab program!

Story links

http://isanticountynews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4134&Itemid=1
http://wcco.com/local/dwi.sober.cab.2.897447.html

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ever Cat Update

Here is a link to the Ever Cat Bio-Diesel Plant Update.

http://isanticountynews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5113&Itemid=59

By the Numbers

I wanted to add another note to the previous posting:

The first 9 items will bring in $165,817 and the next 2 items equal $156,000 totaling $321,812 or 63% of the promised LGA for 2009. If they cut more than 63% of the promised LGA than step 12 gets looked at.

24% of 2008 LGA was cut just a few days ago - totaling $112,000 that the City is absorbing by using general fund reserves that can not be used in 2009. The total amount the City is absorbing in the first 11 adjustments and the 2008 LGA cut is $433,817. Our total budget for 2009 is $3,407,000. We are losing an equivalent to 13% of our budget before we look at step 12.

Everyone will have things they do not like in the situation we have been placed in by the state's failure.


2009 Budget expenditures by percentage:

Public Safety - 32%
General Government - 26%
Public Works - 17%
Debt payments - 13% down from over 18%
Park and Recreation - 6%
Capital Outlay - 3%
Transfers/Misc - 3%


We have been working the last few years to drive down our City debt to improve Isanti fiscal health. We will continue to drive down City debt to alleviate this burden from our City Taxpayers.

3 more quick points... There would be no need for any of this if either the State lived up to its promises or if the delinquent taxpayers - especially developers- paid their taxes.

The City is still attracting new business to town and the growth of our tax and job base over the long run makes our dependence on the state or any handle full of taxpayers less important. This has been a trend over the last few years and will continue into the future.

The last point is we are planning for at least a 50% cut in LGA/Homestead Credit reimbursement. If it is less than that then we will be able to back fill in funds that were cut.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

2008 and 2009 LGA Solution

I have made several proposals to the Finance Committee that were adopted and will be recommended to the City Council on January 6th. The immediate $112,000 Local Government Aid cut from the State for our 2008 budget will be fixed by using unspent 2008 budget dollars. This means even though we already made cuts in 2008 spending further cuts in spending will be used to gap the difference.

2009 anticipated cuts from the state to our $514,000 promised LGA have also been dealt with. We have a list of 16 actions we can take to cover part or all of the LGA cuts we will be facing due to the historic state deficit. The first 9 need to be adopted immediately. Some may ask why not wait to make cuts until we find out how much the state is going to cut our payment. The answer is it will be to late - the money will have already been spent.

The days when Isanti or any city can count on the State to keep its financial house in order are over. The State legislature and Governor have failed the cities and counties twice in 5 short years. We must do what every small an medium sized business must do, live within our means. We can not rely on state and federal help. When and if we get our LGA payments great, we can rebuild reserves and capital equipment funds but relying on LGA for daily operations must become a thing of the past.

Isanti is in a good position to weather this storm because of the Long Term Financial Planning I had pushed for after I was first elected Mayor in 2006. There will be pain felt by every City department from previous spending cuts and future actions. Many of our states cities and counties have little to no reserves and rely on state aid for as much as 80% of their entire budget. Isanti receives roughly 17% of our budget in state aid.

I will detail the 16 item list that the Finance Committee will be asking the Council to adopt. Remember the first 9 need to go into effect immediately.

  1. No new non-budgeted spending
  2. Eliminate charitable giving by the Council ($10,000)
  3. Cut City Council travel and training budget by 50% ($2,500)
  4. Cut EDA travel and training budget by 50% ($1,500)
  5. Hiring freeze on replacement positions ($30,000)
  6. Eliminate Warming House staff for outdoor ice rink ($3,000)
  7. Cut EDA Marketing budget for Granite city Welcome signs ($5,000)
  8. Transfer a further $100,000 from liquor store funds - good thing we did not build a new liquor store or this money would not be available
  9. Eliminate transfer in Revolving Loan Fund ($14,000)
  10. Eliminate 2009 transfer into Capital Replacement Fund ($106,000)
  11. Rewrite City loan from City sewer fund that paid for the cost over run on City Hall ($50,000)
  12. Eliminate position from Police Department and/or Public Works - if labor/health care cost can not be lowered - if State does not fulfill its commitments
  13. Lower General Fund Balance ($300,000) one-time funds
  14. Transfer from Capital Replacement Funds ($572,000) one-time funds
  15. Transfer from Revolving Loan Funds ($130,000) one-time funds
  16. Inter-city fund loans (Sewer and Water Funds) ($500,000) one-time funds
The figures for items 13-16 are estimates at this time and will fluctuate. These items also are only onetime cash infusions and can only be done once and the money is gone. These are not anticipated to be needed but if the hard economic times go into 2011 we will need to use them.
The elimination of positions is a structural change and its impact takes months to hit the bottom line. The employees have a 60 notification and the City would be paying unemployment as well on those positions.
We will not know until late spring or early summer what to expect from the state but we will have all our plans in place for different funding levels. This is also happening when the City is receiving fewer property tax dollars from non-payment due to foreclosures and failed developers.
We are facing historic tough times but we are prepared and will come through this together. The fund reserves for the City especially in capital replacement and others are at historic highs through our excellent planning. We will also be tasking committees to go through each respective department for structural savings. If other savings can be achieved or the state lives up to its promises the items on the list past number 9 may never need to be taken.
One quick note on a repeated question to me - The Mayor and Council have had no raise in pay since I have been on the Council and as Mayor I am paid just under $4,000 a year and Council Members make less than that.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Local Government Aid

We were just informed that the LGA cut to Isanti is $112,000. This was for our 2008 budget - money already spent. The Finance Committee will be meeting on Monday to finalize our plan to amend this years budget.

We are also working under the expectation that the $514,000 promised by the state for 2009 will be deeply slashed. Spending cuts will be offered to amend the 2009 budget. I put together a list of cuts and other tools to balance the 2009 budget. I will be detailing this out in the days to come.

Ever Cat Fuels Job Alert

Today's tour participants


We conducted a mid process tour of the Ever Cat Biodiesel Plant today. The plant will be in production in about 3 months. There will be an initial hiring of 20 employees. These are good paying jobs and most only require a high school diploma, technical aptitude and a willingness to be trained. They said that they need operators, a buy, a seller and a maintenance person. Ever Cat wanted us to make sure the word is out that they are looking for applicants. Here is the contact information.

Glen Heffron
Plant Manager
Ever Cat Fuels, LLC
100 Isanti Parkway NE
Isanti, MN 55040
glenheffron@evercatfuels.com

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Friday We Know

We will find out Friday how deep the cuts will be to our Local Government Aid.

http://www.startribune.com/politics/state/36340964.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUUl

2009 Budge/Levy and Council Update

The City Council approved the City budget and levy tonight. The 2009 levy is 53.937%, down 5.9 points from 59.886% this year. That is a 10% decrease in City property taxes in one year. In 2003 Isanti's levy was at 77.75%. We have reduced the rate by nearly 24 points or 31%in just a few years. Another way to look at it is if we had not gotten control of City spending and succeeded in Fiscal discipline and spending your City property taxes would be a third higher than they are today.

When I ran for Mayor in 2006 I had promised to lower our levy rate to 55% in three years - we exceeded that goal in just two years. We are again the only community in the region to have achieved this feat.

I updated the Council tonight about all the work we are doing in the Finance Committee to plan for the expected LGA cuts and the issues arising from non-payment of property taxes and assessments. We will be presenting the plan to the Council in the next few months after all the information is in and we have the States decision on LGA cuts. These are not problems to be feared but challenges to be conquered.

We have placed Isanti in as good a position as can be had in these difficult times. Our liquor store fund has a healthy cash balance that will help our 2009 budget. The 3-2 split decision to not build a new liquor store has been proven right. I was against building the new store for many reasons including the fact it would have wiped out the cash balance in the fund and cost the City over a $100,000 in revenue each year for roughly 10 years as the debt for the store would be paid down.

The City has built up a nearly $600,000 capital replacement budget in the last few years as well. Isanti had not reserved funds in this way in the past - another component of our Long Term Financial Plan. This along with a healthy general fund balance will allow us to weather the difficult economic conditions we face. We continue to look for greater efficiencies in City operations to ensure the greatest value for our Taxpayers. Case in point tonight is that we paid off an existing bonded debt early because we would save $37,000 doing so and we had the cash available.

We have had to make tough decisions and we will continue to do so. I know I sound like a broken record but fiscal discipline is key to our success and we must continue to follow our plan. The City can not take on new large amounts of debt or new structural cost. The Council will also have to trim cost in several areas but again this will be in the plan we will present to the Council.

The Council voted to pave 3rd Avenue along the Soccer Fields in 2009. The City pulled a letter of credit from the bank of a failed developer to pay roughly half of this project cost. If we did not move forward with this project these funds would have had to be refunded back - use it or lose it. There are several details to still be worked out but by mid summer this road should be paved.

The Council approved applying for $552k in Neighborhood Stabilization Funds that are used to buy foreclosed properties. We have been working on this project for a few weeks and much of the background information was developed as a part of our foreclosure program in Isanti. Central Minnesota Housing Partnership will be assisting the City in writing and administrating the grant. Many of the details are not decided yet but we will be recommending that the funds be used for down payment assistance. I have talked with local banks and Realtors and all agree this is the best use of these funds.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tonights Agenda

Go to - http://www.cityofisanti.us/Irene/12-16-18-CC%20agn.pdf to read the Council agenda for tonight.

I will be writing extensively about tonight's meeting after we adjourn. We will be having the final vote on the 2009 budget and all its implications along with the state's looking at cutting current LGA.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Winter 2008 Isantian

http://www.cityofisanti.us/Trudi/Isantian%20final%20winter%202008.pdf

For A Few Dollars More - Sorry Sergio Leone

Had to use the title


We will be asking the Council to approve paying off one of our bonds early. We have the funds in this account to pay it off early and this will save us $37,000 in interest expense. We are organizing our City accounts to maximize our investment returns and ensuring a transparency and clarity of information.

Last year we had for the first time put out a Request for Proposal for our City deposits. This yielded excellent returns. This is all part of an on going process to make sure we are managing the Taxpayers money in as efficient a way as possible. The more money we save and or earn interest on the smaller the burden on our Taxpayers.

In the last two weeks we have saved $27,000 on interest expense from our recent bond rating improvement to A+ and if the Council approves our early debt retirement another $37,000. Every dollar counts in the best of times but as we face significant challenges including the State taking back what has already been promised it is all the more important. Fiscal discipline and planning are great things.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A Quick Update

My post have slowed the last two weeks due to a great deal of work we have been doing at the City. We are preparing for the very real possibility that part or all of our remaining Local Government Aid (LGA) dollars that we were promised for 2008 will be withheld by the State so they can balance their budget. LGA makes up about 16% of our budget. I also expect that the dollars promised for the 2009 budget will be slashed.

I have said previously we are fiscally sound and are well placed for such an occurrence. This does not mean that we will not have to make tough choices.

We are working on two separate Federal Stimulus programs that are progressing through the system. One is an initial infrastructure program and the other is an assistance program to help sell foreclosed homes. Both are moving at warp speed and we have been spending a great deal of time and energy to get these federal dollars spent locally. I am certain there will be many more such programs developed at the federal and state level.

Some will disagree with the use of federal dollars as stimulus and I have great sympathy for the position but I must be the chief advocate for the City of Isanti. I will update you as we progress on each of these.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Council Update 12-3-08

A couple quick notes about tonight's Council meeting. I informed the Council that we have been successful in improving our City's credit rating. We have gone from a Baa to an A+ rating. This is a momentous achievement for Isanti. One of the reasons for this stated by Standard & Poor's is our "very strong financial operations, as evidenced by a high general fund balance reserve and positive operating results." It was also explained tonight that our low tax rate, strong fiscal discipline and excellent economic development all played a major role in our improved credit rating.

One more independent indication that we have been doing the right thing the last two years. I have worked so hard to improve the financial conditions of this City and tonight the Council, Citizens and Taxpayers were able to see some of the fruits of our labor. This was important as we sold the bonds to pay for the recent street improvement project today. We saved $27,000 just in interest expense from this one project.

I also informed the Council that the Finance Committee will be meeting to develop a plan of action in case the state cuts part or all of our $514,121 in LGA or tax revenues fall due to unpaid property taxes. The State cut funds several years ago to balance the their budget. I have discussed the upcoming state deficit and what it could mean for Isanti Taxpayers if it balances its budget on the backs of local government. We are in a good position to weather this financial storm due to our strong fiscal discipline in cutting cost and building healthy reserves.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Isanti County Christmas Project

The Isanti County Christmas Project helps shed happiness upon what is often a difficult time for struggling families. They are all volunteers and all the money raised is spent on families in Isanti County.

Make checks payable to the Isanti County Christmas Project and mail them to Isanti Lions Club, c/o Tom Pagel, 28339 Bayshore Drive NW, Isanti, MN, 55040. To help or ask questions about the project, call Tom at 763-444-6560.

Monday, December 01, 2008

My Isantian Article

We have a few new items to discuss. I would like to congratulate Mr. Kolb and Mr. Kennedy on their election to 4 year terms on the City Council. I would also like to congratulate Mr. Duff on his election to the County Board representing Bradford Township and the City of Isanti. This leaves an opening on the City Council for 2009-2010; the Council will determine the best way to fill this vacancy at the first meeting in January. Go to www.cityofisanti.us for the complete election results of Mayor and Council.

The Council will hold a Goal Setting session at the end of January. I have high hopes for this meeting as it sets the Agenda for the next 2 years. The Goals we set in 2007; Long Term Financial Plan, 3 centering on economic growth and our Water Treatment Plant have all been great successes. We have been able to cut taxes and City spending in the last 2 budget cycles and will continue to work towards fulfilling our Long Term Financial Plan. We have grown existing businesses and attracted new ones to our City accomplishing our 3 economic growth goals which diversifies our tax base and should continue to allow us to ease our tax burden. Our Water Treatment Plant is being constructed and will be in operation by the summer of 2009, providing clean and safe drinking water for generations to come.

I will be presenting my agenda at the Goal setting session but more importantly I want to hear from you. I want the input of our Citizens and Taxpayers. If you have ideas for specific projects or overall goals of the City please contact me at George@GeorgeWimmer.com, write to P.O. Box 25 Isanti, MN 55040 or call me directly at 763-444-7158. I want your voice heard as we continue to move Isanti into a brighter future.

We face significant challenges in these tough economic times but we have developed processes to manage the home foreclosure issue and non-payment of taxes and assessments. Our process of handling the effects of home foreclosure is being hailed as a model for the region. From a high of 116 occupied foreclosed homes at the end of August we now have 74 in November – a 36% decrease. Our financial planning the last 2 years has allowed us to cut spending and taxes while developing healthy fund balances. This is important in tough economic times as we face the non-payment of taxes and assessments. We continue to work diligently to help existing businesses grow and recruiting new companies to Isanti. The methods we developed over the last two years to attract businesses brought us the recognition of the Economic Development Association of Minnesota when Isanti was awarded the prestigious Business Recruitment Award in June. The City of Isanti is well placed to handle the tough economic times we face.

I will be delivering the State of the City address at the February 18th Isanti Area Chamber of Commerce Luncheon and March 7th I will be jumping at the Arctic Plunge on Long Lake. The Plunge Committee raised over $20,000 last year for Isanti Search and Rescue. One last item, don’t forget you can listen to the audio of past Council meetings by going to the City website and clicking the link.

One Last Note on the Campaign

I wanted to add one last thing from our recently concluded campaign. I was proud to have bought all my campaign materials from Isanti businesses. I hope all local candidates in the future will do the same.

Printed materials and buttons from Embroidery & Ink

Signs from Reller Signs

T-shirts from Prints Charming

It was important to keep our money local especially for those that wish to lead our community.