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Levy increase could pay for road work in 2012

One way or the other, Farmington residents will have to pay extra for road maintenance next year.

At a city council workshop this week, council members said they would support increasing the city's tax levy to build up funds to pay for seal coating road maintenance. City officials are still not interested in utilizing franchise fees to pay for the work.

Seal coating has been put on hold for this year due to budget constraints, but interim city administrator/city engineer Kevin Schorzman recommends getting back into the program soon. The process puts a protective layer of oil down on the tops of roads to keep water, salt and other chemicals from getting into cracks.

Seal coating does not come cheap. In the past, the city used money from the road and bridge fund and assessed the benefiting properties to cover each year's seal coat projects. Since the road and bridge fund is more or less depleted, council members have been looking for other ways to cover the cost.

With a tight budget this year, council members opted to put seal coating on the back burner for 2011. However, Schorzman has urged not to let the process go too long because doing so could lead to road damage that will cost far more to fix.

"I believe they understand my opinion that it's an important thing to do, and they chose to continue doing it through levying versus other options presented in the past," he said Tuesday.

As a result, residents can expect an increase in their property taxes in 2012. Schorzman isn't sure how big that increase will be, but he's estimating council will have to increase the tax levy by $350,000 to $400,000 to cover the cost of seal coating next year.

Schorzman estimates that will cost an individual household around $50 annually, but that amount will depend on the market value of the individual property.

Farmington mayor Todd Larson said council members think increasing the levy is the lesser of two evils, compared to using franchise fees to cover the cost.

"I don't like the idea of the (franchise fee) money going to the companies first and then coming to the city," Larson said. "Besides, this way the levy will be tax deductible for the residents and a franchise fee isn't."

The city of Farmington's seal coating program is set up to cover all areas of the community on a seven-year cycle. When the process starts up again in 2012, the city will go back to using that cycle rather than developing a new program. Essentially, they'll pick up where they left off, Schorzman said.

"What would have been done this year will get done next year," he said. "It's all ready to go."

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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