HUGO — After a council member expressed concerns with a proposed watershed district budget, city staff invited the district to attend a City Council meeting.
The proposed budget for the Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District (CMSCWD) was first brought up by Councilman Chuck Haas at the Oct. 7 meeting.
“I received an email from the district talking about their upcoming levy. They are having a levy increase next year, which will affect the taxpayers of eastern Hugo. Their capital projects are going from $79,000 to over $600,000, they have a lake monitoring program that is going from $29,000 to almost $80,000,” Haas explained. “They are appointed folks that have tax authority responsibility and I think that whatever they are doing over there, they are taxing excessively.”
Haas then asked if the city could invite the district administrator and board managers to a future meeting. City Administrator Bryan Bear said he planned to attend the district’s public information
session Oct. 9 and would extend the invitation.
District Administrator Mike Isensee along with President Wade Johnson and Secretary Kristin Tuenge attended the Oct. 21 meeting to share information on the proposed budget, projects the district has going on and answer questions for the council.
Isensee explained that 60% of the district’s budget will be spent on projects. The 2020 budget is proposed to be approximately $1.3 million compared to about $979,000 in 2019, an increase of more than 30%. Some $466,900 of the budget will be accounted for through grants and $770,000 by levy, which represents an increase of $180,000. Isensee said for a $250,000 home, the homeowner’s annual contribution to the district would increase from $72 to $95. “CMSCWD has the lowest levy in Washington County, even with the increase,” he said.
Haas said, “I was looking at your budget and I was alarmed at the large increase. Of course, your justification is you have these large grants. For the next six years, we have $13 million worth of road improvements to do. And we are chipping away at that with $2 million a year ...” Haas said. “We build into our levy some dollars not to spend this year, but to put away for these future things so we don’t have to have a huge levy increase on our taxpayers. We do a little bit at a time; it spreads the burden out and it isn’t as alarming.”
He added that the watershed district doesn’t have a truth in taxation hearing like the city, county and school district. “As appointed people with levy authority, there is an extra responsibility there that I would hope in the future you would take some steps not to have these huge increases,” he said.
Councilman Mike Miron asked, “You have these big projects that were delayed for a number of years. What do you see down the road? Do you have a number of other larger projects that the district is going to be hoping to tackle? Do you think that this is going to accomplish a lot of what you are hoping to accomplish for a number of years as you look in your long-term crystal ball?”
Isensee said that the district has a few more large-scale projects and a number of smaller projects that have yet to be done in its 2010-2020 management plan. Now, while preparing its next 10-year plan, the district will take another look at its priorities. Isensee added that the district is hopeful it can continue to acquire more grants and build successful partnerships to help offset the costs in the future.
Mayor Tom Weidt thanked the district for attending the meeting and said, “People don’t really know what the watershed does. It’s an important part of the network that keeps the water flowing the way we want to. I recommend going forward that you make an effort to reach out to the cities and residents and let them know what you are doing.”
Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.