City administrator Martig explains tax increase; local candidates’ forums at City Hall on Saturday; Centraide announces the first two beneficiaries

By Jeff Johnson

Municipal Administrator Ben Martig

Northfield City Council last week approved a preliminary tax levy for 2023 with an 18.5% increase from 2022. This increase may decrease, but not increase, when the final budget for 2023 is approved later this year . City Administrator Ben Martig, along with Mayor Rhonda Pownell, appeared on KYMN earlier this week to help explain the dynamics of property tax levies and why such an increase is needed.

For Northfield, a relatively small industrial and commercial tax base means a greater burden on residential tax rates. Expanding the industrial and commercial base is a top priority, and the hiring of two new employees in the department has helped boost last year’s levy by double-digit percentages, but it’s also paying dividends this year :

The Council has actually invested in more staff to help with economic development to try to grow it. Just as an example, we got a business grant of about $800,000 from downtown from one of the new hires, the two new hires were working on that grant and that’s a pretty good return on investment right from the first year. And we’re also working with companies like Cardinal Glass, which is considering expansion work, and Aurora Pharmaceutical.

Along with the increase in the wage bill, road and infrastructure works led to a disproportionate increase in expenditure. Martig said inflation has hit the construction industry hard:

We’ve seen the debt increase primarily because we’re an older, fully developed city, so we need to replace the infrastructure: the streets and the pipes that underpin them. So we have reinvested in our buildings and our streets and over the past two decades these costs have risen well above inflation rates resulting in oil and construction costs significantly higher than inflation .

A full-time fire chief, if approved, increases expenses. The city is also considering additional funding for our parks system, which Pownell says has been underfunded for some time.
You’ll hear more about the budget and levy as the board continues to refine it ahead of its final vote in December.

Northfield League of Women Voters holds candidate forums


The Northfield chapter of the League of Women Voters will host a Candidates Forum this Saturday featuring local election candidates.

The first forum is at 9:00 a.m. for the Minnesota Senate 58 race. At 10:15 a.m. is forum for the Minnesota House 58A and 58B races. The Northfield City Council Forum is at 11:45 a.m. and the Northfield School Board Forum is at 1:00 p.m.

Alyssa Herzog-Melby, one of the organizers of the event for the League, said: “Because we are a non-partisan organization, every candidate in all races was invited to attend.”
The event will take place in the Council Chamber of City Hall. Doors will open at 8:45 a.m. All are welcome and do not hesitate to ask your questions to the candidates. Herzog-Melby explained the guidelines for doing this:

Come, register, take a seat, and during the forum, we will actually be soliciting questions from the audience on topics that are important to them, questions that they have for the candidates. These questions are forwarded to a question facilitation team that aggregates the questions, perhaps revises them or edits them, just to make sure that the questions are indeed non-partisan and are not biased towards a candidate or attack a candidate.

If you want to know more about the League or the Saturday forums, visit lwvnorthfieldmn.org.

Rice County Area United Way awards grants to CAC and Neighbors United


Rice County Area United Way announced that it has awarded its first two $1,000 micro-grant awards. United Way’s micro-grants program was launched in August to award $100 to $1,000 to recipients every two months for urgent needs. Top prizes will go to Community Action Center and County Neighbors Rice United, or Vecinos Unidos.

The CAC grant will support a new program providing halal meats to Somali Muslim residents of Faribault. According to a CAC statement, they have seen an increase in the number of Somali residents seeking nutritional resources as the cost of food remains high. The grant will fund a pilot program to provide culturally appropriate foods. The CAC will coordinate with five halal butchers and offer $10 vouchers to 100 families so they can purchase halal meat from these butchers.

The Rice County Neighbors United grant will support the new Viking Terrace Community Residents Association in Northfield. The funding will support the organization’s basic needs, including copies, newsletters, child care and information gathering to send to attorneys representing residents. Neighbors United supports the Viking Terrace Residents Association and acts as the association’s fiscal sponsor.

The next United Way micro-grant will be awarded in November. The deadline to apply is October
15. For more information on the micro-grants program, visit ricecountyunitedway.org.

Jeff Johnson is the owner of KYMN Radio and host of The Morning Show. You can reach him at [email protected]

Harry L. Blanchard