Football players at council meeting

Chaska City Hall was packed Monday with the Chaska Hawks football team after earning its state championship title Saturday. Mayor Mark Windschitl formally recognized the team and councilors offered their congratulations.

The new year is less than a month away, and with it comes some budget changes in Chaska.

At the Chaska City Council meeting Monday night, City Administrator Matt Podhradsky addressed what taxes could look like for Chaskans, the proposed 2020 budget, and finances over the next few years.

TAXES

The city continues to follow a 2015 policy that sets tax levies based on new growth and inflation, Podhradsky said. In 2020, the city’s tax capacity will increase by 9.7%, but the tax rate would go down by 1.59%.

So what does this mean for homeowners and taxpayers?

Based on a median $260,000 Chaska home, property owners could expect to see an increase of $70, or $5.83 per month, in 2020 property taxes. City taxes on an average home would be $829.

Podhradsky noted the taxes are variable, based on individual property value changes.

In 2020, Chaska will still have one of the lowest tax levies in the metro area, ranking 7th lowest of nearly 90 cities, he said.

2020 AND BEYOND

The proposed general fund operating budget next year is a 12.2% increase from 2019, sitting at just over $19 million.

Podhradsky noted $355,000 of that budget comes from current money in the city’s EDA fund. The rest — $18.7 million — will be seen in taxes and fees.

“How do we really meet our mission of being the best small town in Minnesota?” Podhradsky said.

He listed a number of upgrades coming to the city in 2020, totaling $1 million dollars through the Capital Improvement Program. From most- to least-expensive, they include: street overlaying, a Cortina Woods Park and Clover Hawk Rink rehab, sports court resurfacing and improvements near and within the fire station.

STAFFING

A big talking point of the night was city staffing levels. Podhradsky said a formal study indicated the city needed to hire 16 more employees to meet staffing needs.

“I do worry about burnout and fatigue and talent — losing individual talent,” Councilor Jon Grau said of the current staffing shortage.

About $1.5 million is needed to bring those 16 employees on board, filling in those spaces by 2023. The money would come from general fund tax levies.

MAINTENANCE

Along with the first phase of hiring more staff in 2020, building maintenance gaps will also be filled. Podhradsky said city building maintenance is especially in need of an overhaul, and will rack up some funding requests in 2020 and throughout the next five years.

“We have no building maintenance department now. We do it sort of piecemeal based on different buildings,” Podhradsky said, noting the need for a centralized worksite in coming years.

Hiring a foreman, two building maintenance workers and a water/sewer worker would come in 2020.

COMMUNITY CENTER

In 2021, the Chaska Community Center will be 30 years old.

“We need to create a vision for the future and where we’re going to be going the next 30 years,” Podhradsky said.

He said the center is underpriced and expects a 4.5% membership price increase in 2020, bringing the cost to $610 a year and eventually increasing.

GOLF COURSE

The Chaska Town Course lost $160,000 in 2019 compared to the previous year, Podhradsky said, nodding to unpredictable outdoor playing conditions.

“Weather has become much more of a factor the last two years than it’s ever been,” he said.

The course budgets for 32,000 rounds a year, but 2019 brought in just over 29,300.

Podhradsky said a major expense is the Par 30 course, that essentially breaks even every year. When foot golf opened at the course in 2015 it took off, but has seen declining usage since.

He added the course will likely decrease the discount offered to Chaska residents, calling it “unsustainable” to have a 37% discount ever since the course opened in 1997.

“We’re planning to get together with current residents to come up with something more sustainable and have that for the next 20 years maybe,” he said.

5-YEAR PLAN

In 2020, Podhradsky said 27,000 residents will call Chaska home. He expects that number to grow 1,500 more over the next five years.

Podhradsky said the Chaska Curling Center is on track with last year’s growth. Almost 80% of the people who use the center aren’t residents, and 25 more people are on teams than this time last year, he said.

“We’re planning to keep fund balance relatively consistent though the five years,” he said.

A final budget document is being prepared for council review, to be voted on for adoption at the Dec. 16 meeting. The final 2020 tax levy will also be established at that meeting.

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