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Farmington will likely move away from assessments

For more than 20 years, the city of Farmington has used assessments to help pay for its road construction projects. That may soon change.

Later this month, Farmington City Council members will consider a new policy that moves funding for road projects away from using special assessments charged to the residents affected by the work.

Farmington city engineer Kevin Schorzman brought the issue to the April 14 council workshop for discussion. It comes after council approved a Capital Improvement Plan that schedules various road projects around the city out over a 30-year period.

Schorzman asked council members whether they want to continue with special assessments to pay for the projects identified in the CIP. Overall consensus was that they were ready to move away from the assessment policy.

Instead, the city will plan an increase in its debt levy each year. Funds generated from that increase will be allotted to funding the CIP projects.

“It’s kind of a recognition that assessments are not a way to pay for a project, they’re a way to pay for the bonding of a project,” Schorzman said. “One of the main goals was to get the city away from having to bond for projects.”

Assessments have generally put on the burden of residents who live in a certain proximity to the project in question, because they will, at least in theory, get the most benefit. But when that happens, Schorzman said, the city also hears concerns from residents who have to come up with the extra money for those assessments.

“Typically, special assessments come as a surprise for a lot of people, even if we put it out there. People don’t pay attention about those things, but then we hear from them when they’re asked to come up with $6,000 (for a project),” he said. “It doesn’t work that well. It’s a shock.”

On several occasions, resident objections to assessments put needed projects on hold, Schorzman said. When the projects finally were constructed, the cost was significantly higher due to increased labor and construction material costs.

“What you can accomplish through minimizing those delays is that you can get those projects done really at the cheapest cost possible, and you can do it without the special assessments.

“If you can do something to change the shock of a special assessment, why not do it?” Schorzman said.

The first project in the long-term CIP to be built without aid of assessments is scheduled for 2019.

City administrator David McKnight called the proposed move away from assessments “the most conservative route to take.”

Though there was discussion in a workshop, council members have not taken formal action on the proposal. McKnight suspects the proposal will be placed on the May 19 regular city council agenda.

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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