City of Farmington may raise fees next yearFarmington residents can expect to see some increases in certain fees they pay to the city of Farmington next year, thanks to some “deep” issues. The Farmington City Council worked through the city’s enterprise funds during a Monday workshop.
By: Michelle Leonard, The Farmington Independent
Farmington residents can expect to see some increases in certain fees they pay to the city of Farmington next year, thanks to some “deep” issues.
The Farmington City Council worked through the city’s enterprise funds during a Monday workshop. Enterprise funds are funds set aside to address specific areas of the city’s services, including sewer operations, water, stormwater, solid waste and streetlights.
Previous cuts and adjustments have lowered the general fund budget and tax levy from the $8,808,865 that was approved as a preliminary number on Sept. 4, to $8,734,924 as of Monday’s meeting. That money is not included in the enterprise funds discussed this week.
Part of the general fund was adjusted to cover salaries for staff who work in the departments covered by enterprise funds. In the past, some employees had their salaries divided between different departments and roles, and those salaries were covered under the enterprise funds. Now, city administrator David McKnight has reassigned those employees to a “home business unit,” so that their salaries are covered out of the general fund. Funds to cover those salaries will be transferred from the respective enterprise funds to the general fund.
“This is tax levy-neutral. Overall, it will be a very good fit,” McKnight told council members. “Transferring money from those budgets into the general fund is … more efficient for us.”
Revenue in the sewer operations fund is expected to exceed expenditures in 2013 and 2014, so no fee increase is required for that service. Revenues in the water fund are also expected to exceed expenditures in the next two years, and the city hopes to form a joint powers agreement with Dakota County to purchase chemicals to treat water to help keep those costs low in the future.
However, a discussion regarding stormwater management – more specifically, how to treat some of Farmington’s storm water runoff ponds – could mean both a new city ordinance and a fee increase in the next year.
Problems with ponds
According to Farmington city engineer Kevin Schorzman, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has put new regulations in place that regulate dredged fill from stormwater ponds, and how it can be disposed of. Chemicals present in the seal coat material used on residential driveways, called PAH’s, has the potential to cause considerable contamination to stormwater ponds.
Farmington has approximately 120-130 ponds. Those ponds are designed to catch and hold runoff from rainfall, but sediment that gathers on the bottom of the ponds can limit the storage capacity of some of those ponds, Schorzman said. Periodically, ponds are supposed to be dredged to reestablish the amount of storage available.
That sediment is supposed to be disposed of, and that’s where the problem comes in, because the MPCA has determined that PAH’s are a contaminant. Cities can be fined if the sediment is disposed of improperly, and removal is not cheap. Determining whether the sediment is contaminated requires taking samples, and though that part can be done by city staff, the city currently has no money set aside to deal with the rest of the problem.
Schorzman is proposing an increase of $3 per quarter to each residence that pays for stormwater service. That would mean an increase of $1 each month, and could potentially raise enough money citywide to get the process started. The 2013 storm water budget includes $67,000 for professional services, which would cover the cost of staff time for sampling and testing, but it does not address the cost of any potential removal.
Council members discussed the problem at length. Farmington mayor Todd Larson is in favor of the quarterly fee increase, but council member Christy Jo Fogarty suggested easing in with a $2 per quarter fee. Council member Julie May opposes increasing the fee.
“Ultimately, what you’re saying is you believe some of our ponds need to be dredged,” Larson said to Schorzman. “Either we’re going to fix the problem, or we’re going to turn a blind eye to it.”
In the end, council members settled on a $1.50 increase for 2013, which will be used, in part, to help fund the process of taking sediment samples and having those samples tested.
Four of the five council members supported the idea of a new city ordinance to ban use of driveway sealant that contains PAH. Cities that do have an ordinance banning PAH’s are eligible for grants, and that money can be put toward the dredging and disposal of pond sediment.
Since the city of Farmington is in need of a new garbage truck – at an estimated cost of $220,000 – council members are also considering a fee increase in the solid waste fund. The rate increase would be for the larger 60-gallon and 90-gallon garbage cans, but the smaller, 30-gallon rate would remain the same. Rates proposed on the 60-gallon includes a $2 increase; the 90-gallon would increase by $3.
Council members also reviewed the economic development authority, ice arena and liquor store budgets.