Bemidji City Council approves MOU with Friends of the Carnegie, holds Truth in Taxation Hearing

The Bemidji City Council held their Truth in Taxation Hearing during their meeting Monday.

The routine hearing discussed how property tax dollars are used and a more general discussion on the city’s budget.

City Finance Director Ron Eischens explained that for every $1 a city property owner pays in taxes, about 48 cents goes to Beltrami County, 11 cents goes to the Bemidji school district, one cent goes to the Airport Authority and the remaining 40 cents goes toward the city’s coffers.

The city has 29 different funds on its books, but the general fund represents 36 percent of the city’s budget. Ninety percent of the tax levy goes toward the general fund, with the remaining ten percent going toward debt service like bonds payments.

The city will set its final tax levy during the next council meeting on Dec. 20 after setting the preliminary levy to an 8.5 percent net increase over last year.

In other business, the council approved hiring a consultant to address equity concerns within the Bemidji Parks and Trails system.

Parks and Recreation Director Marcia Larson said many grant opportunities require such a strategic plan, and the focus would bring more voices to the table on parks, trails, and recreation access and service deliverability.

The motion to hire the consultant passed 4-2.

Councilmember Ron Johnson removed the Friends of the Carnegie Library Memorandum of Understanding, which discussed some history of the city and Friends of the Carnegie’s relationship and would continue the storytime reading program for children.

The motion ultimately passed unanimously, but some discussion was held on the fundraising aspect of it.

Mayor Jorge Prince stated he wished the public to know that the Friends of the Carnegie ceased their fundraising efforts once the renovations were complete, which came in about $200,000 more than originally budgeted.

The total cost for the Carnegie restoration was about $2.2 million, with Friends of the Carnegie/Save the Carnegie fundraising efforts contributing $1.5 million.

The project was completed in late 2019.

Paying of VenuWorks bills to the tune of about $53,000 was once again pulled from consent but also passed unanimously.

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