Minnetrista should have nothing to do with this partisan, deceptive program

MINNETRISTA SHOULD HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PARTISAN AGENDA of the GreenStep program designed to lure public officials with awards & recognition at the expense of their communities. I don’t like dealing with dishonest organizations, or people for that matter. How’s this for transparency? After the video posted yesterday exposed their funding deception the GreenStep Cities folks removed the Met Council’s logo from their site. They continue to deny the Met Council is a program funder despite the fact it appears on their own website.

GreenStep Switcheroo

GreenStep Cities Program Exposed

GREENSTEP CITIES EXPOSED – As I was about to publish this today I discovered that the GreenStep Cities program has removed the Metropolitan Council logo from their “About” page where this, below, was captured last month. Yep, it’s gone. Now they have it in small type in parentheses, to obscure it even more. Read on…

GreenStep Met Council

 

I was asked to speak last month at a Victoria city council meeting on concerns regarding the Met Council’s GreenStep Cities program. The program had recently been rejected by the city of Plymouth and had received less than glowing coverage in the press of late due to transparency issues and the Met Council’s agenda to extend control throughout the state by getting local governments to adopt their “model ordinances.” A GreenStep Cities representative presented as well.

The video below speaks for itself and highlights the deception and clearly partisan agenda of this program. For those that want to see the unedited version it is available on the city of Victoria’s website.

GreenStep Screenshot

The city of Minnetrista has not joined this program but the council has not voted not to either. The program is marketed as being voluntary but once adopted cities are pressured…or “encouraged” to progress through the steps as they compete with each other for awards at the League of Minnesota Cities annual meeting. Mayors are lured by recognition and awards and staff ends up spending their precious time measuring and reporting data to the Met Council instead of tending to city matters.

If you’d like to express your concerns about the program you may contact Minnetrista council members: lwhalen@ci.minnetrista.mn.us; mmolitor@ci.minnetrista.mn.us; pmortenson@ci.minnetrista.mn.us; jtschumperlin@ci.minnetrista.mn.us ; sbruce@ci.minnetrista.mn.us

 

Mayor Whalen’s blog on increasing your taxes

I think some clarification is in order here.

Mayor Whalen states on her new blog “When determining our levy one of the things we look at is growth. The County Assessor estimated that we saw a 2.0% – 2.5% overall new home growth. If you subtract that from the final levy increase (over 2019) of 5.66% it leaves an increase of approximately 3.2%-3.7%”

mayor's blogThat’s assuming, incorrectly, that for every percent in growth the city needs a 1:1 ratio increasing the tax levy. That’s simply not true. First, the 2-2.5% referenced here is the increase in the city’s total market valuation from new homes, not the number of new homes built. That could be a very small number of expensive homes or a lot of inexpensive homes. There is no correlation between market valuation increases and a need for higher taxes.

The tax levy should only be increased because of increased costs (plus inflation) due to growth, not simply because of market valuation increases. Theoretically you could have one home built that accounts for the entire 2% growth…which wouldn’t justify any tax levy increase at all. I’m not implying that is the case, just using an example that makes the point.

Exposure to light affects growth

Exposure to light affects growth…in government and taxes. I was concerned when I heard the retirement of Mound’s annual bond payment of $282,000 on their city hall building, which was coming to an end in 2022, was referred to as a “windfall” and conversations ensued around how to spend that money after the building was paid off (see previous post “Windfall dilemma” here).

abstract beach bright clouds

As you may know Minnetrista pays approximately $75,000 annually toward Mound’s bond payment (Minnetrista contracts with Mound for fire services) and has done so since 2004 and will have paid over $1.3 million by the end of 2022.

I asked for this matter to be put on a Minnetrista city council agenda. My belief was, and is, that Minnetrista’s $75K annual payment should stop once the bond is retired. Period. Under no circumstances is it reasonable to support bundling this $75K payment into our annual contract for services or to let it continue being used past 2022 for anything other than what it was originally intended. If there are other things Mound Fire needs in the future, i.e., new fire trucks, apparatus, radios, or administrative costs, those items should be budgeted just like anything else, justified and allocated to the cities they contract with.

My request for the agenda item was granted and staff invited Mound’s Fire Chief to present to the council before our work session discussion.

Although it was a challenge to get the discussion focused on my primary concern it eventually was and I was pleased to find support from other council members that agreed conversations about what to do with this “windfall” shouldn’t be entertained.

 

 

 

 

Let’s be honest

The Laker article below was 100% blatantly false, yet after more than two weeks and requests for a correction The Laker hadn’t corrected it. Minnetrista, as we all know from examining our property tax bills, has had a tax levy increase every year since 2012 except one. This article states, no less than four times, that this is the first levy increase since 2012.

Laker Dec 21 Article

I wrote about the misinformation when it was discovered here on December 21 and learned that the reporter had been in contact with city staff as she developed the story. What the city put out to the public, and the reporter, was that this was the “first general fund levy increase since 2012,” which is a misleading statement designed to obfuscate the fact that, in reality, there has actually been a tax levy increase every year since 2012 except one.

Is it any wonder the reporter fell prey to the obfuscation?

What most people don’t know is there are several funds, other than the “general fund,” included in the tax levy. There is a debt fund, a road maintenance fund, and a CIP levy that, in addition to the general fund levy, comprise the taxable levy. This article leads readers to believe they are long overdue for higher taxes and takes advantage of their not understanding the complexities of the municipal tax levy.

Interestingly, the day after the January 6 council meeting above the Laker posted a story actually perpetuating the misinformation saying “Next year’s levy increase is the first increase to the general fund in eight years” without addressing the blatantly false statement made in their December headline above.

You can watch the entire January 6, 2020 Minnetrista council meeting here.

Correction: In the video clip above I misspoke saying “We have residents believing there was no levy increase this year” when I meant to say “We have residents believing there has been no levy increase for years.” My apologies.

First levy increase since 2012?! I don’t think so

Laker Dec 21 ArticleI blogged about the misuse of statistics back in October and how omitting information, leaving out something significant that, if known, would lead the reader/listener to a different conclusion from what was presented, could manipulate residents. Well, today our favorite local newspaper, The Laker, has been manipulated. But don’t blame the reporter. She was only reporting what she had read on the city’s slide presented at the December 2 public hearing on the 2020 levy increase which said:

“General Fund levy has not been increased since 2012 and had decreased from 2010 before that”

Somehow the reporter got the idea, from the statement above, that the tax levy in Minnetrista hadn’t gone up in eight years. Hmm, I wonder if residents in Minnetrista think the same thing. Anyone familiar with Minnetrista’s tax levy history knows there has been a tax levy increase almost every year since 2012 and we got another whopper 5.66% increase this year.

The byline in the December 21 story on page 18 states “Final levy close to that submitted in September, first increase since 2012” (Emphasis added). Oops, someone actually printed what they were told, and in a very public way. It’s always been okay to mislead people as long as it was done quietly, but headlines advertising the deception are another matter. The reporter was quickly contacted by the city and told to correct the online story and reminded that she should have run the story by the city.

How would a regular citizen interpret this slide?General Fun levy has not increased

Note also how the slide says “Staff is proposing an option reducing the net preliminary tax levy increase….” instead of the reality of staff proposing a 5.66% increase, which, by the way, was adopted on a 4-1 vote (Bruce dissenting).

So what was missing from this slide and why did the reporter need to correct the story? First, there are several funds, other than the “general fund,” included in the tax levy. There is a debt fund, a road maintenance fund, and a CIP levy that, in addition to the general fund levy, comprise the taxable levy. Most people don’t know that and the only reason this statement was on this slide is to take advantage of the fact that most people don’t know that.

Bottom line is the city of Minnetrista wants more of your money but they want you to hand it over without complaining. To do that requires manipulation of the facts and they are very good at that.