The Granite Falls City Council held their meeting on Tuesday, September 8 - one day later than usual due to the Labor Day holiday.

At the top of the agenda was a discussion about the proposed 2021 city budget. In accordance with the Truth-in-Taxation requirements, Granite Falls will conduct two separate Budget hearings to publicly discuss the 2021 General Revenue Budget. In accordance with the budget schedule, these hearings will be held on December 7th and December 21. The council will be required to approve the final levy and final budgets at the December 21st meeting.The Council can set the levy with the option to decrease but again cannot increase.

City staff advised that the General Fund tax levy for 2021 increase by $62,231.45, or 5.59%. Additionally, there is an increase to the debt service levy in the amount of $58,654.00 along with the continued EDA and HRA levies in the amount of $69,870.00. If the General Fund levy increase of $62,231.45 is approved in December, the General Fund levy would change to $1,176,162.84.

With regard to the debt service levy, the total tax levy for the debt service is $928,500.00 for taxes payable in 2021. The total debt service levy is $3,100.00, higher than 2020. When the debt service levy is combined with the General Fund levy in addition to the EDA and HRA levies, the total levy for taxes payable in 2021 equals $2,174,533.00 for an increase of $65,332.00.

Other items of interest in the budget discussions was the disclosure that Local Government Aid will increase in 2021 by $62,232 or a new total of $1,176,163 compared to $1,113,931 in 2020. Council was also informed that the premium for group health insurance for 2021 will have an 4.8% increase. There was an increase of 2.5% in 2018, 18.9% in 2017, (2.5%) in 2016, 15% in 2015, and 17.25% in 2014. Insurance options are currently being reviewed.

In other news, an update was provided regarding Turbine #2 and #3. Council was informed that Turbine #2 is now operational. A meeting was held on Wednesday, September 2 with BARR to review bidding information in addition to repair specifications.

Council approved a new Facility Agreement Transfer Agreement. In 1999, MnDOT made an agreement with the city to build the current transit facility. The agreement now needs the responsibilities assigned to Prairie Five. City Attorney Greg Holmstrom reviewed the agreement and approved moving forward for signatures.

Council also approved an agreement between the Fire Department and the Upper Sioux Community. This agreement is needed due to purchases including the drone and the hoover boat. These two items will still be under the Upper Sioux’s name but will be used by the Fire Department. Council may recall this is a similar agreement with the Police Department. City Attorney Greg Holmstrom also reviewed this agreement for Council.

There was also an update for Council on the ongoing Memorial Park project. With regard to Phase 2 (campground and nature-based playground equipment), proposed trail locations have been cleared and camp sites were removed. Earthwork on the campsite is expected to begin soon, despite some difficulties with rocky top soil. Carpentry work is underway on the shelter house that will be incorporated into the nature based playground equipment. In addition, both shelter houses should have carpentry complete and ready for painting soon. With regard to Phase 3 (shelter house improvements), work continues forward. Contractors noted that there are some difficulties with matching the brick on the fireplace.