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Delano tax levy to increase 6.65 percent

DELANO, MN – How much will property taxes increase in Delano in 2018?

The Delano City Council answered that question by approving the levy, budget, and capital improvement plan for the upcoming year Tuesday evening.

“The total levy is $3,282,640, an increase of 6.65 percent,” Finance Director Brian Bloch said. “More than half of that is coming from debt levies. They’re there because of our street projects.”

What does the levy increase mean for the average homeowner when combined with the county’s and school district’s tax levies?

“If you have a $250,000 home in 2017, you’re paying $3,228 in total tax,” Bloch said. “In 2018, if the home didn’t go up in value, you’ll pay $3,241. If the property value increases 6 percent, the home would be worth $265,000, and you’d be paying $3,466, or a 7 percent increase . . . We saw a significant increase in taxable market value, especially for homeowners compared to industrial, commercial, and retail.”

Bloch broke down the general fund expenditures of $3,560,800, noting that 28 percent will go to community services, 22 percent will go to general government, 20 percent will go to public safety, 13 percent will go to capital outlay, 12 percent will go to public works, and 5 percent will go to other.

“I’m curious what that’s allocated for,” resident Richard Kotten said, referencing the “other” category. “It’s quite a bit of money to have labeled as ‘other.’”

“Most of that is debt on this building . . . $160,000,” Bloch said. “Another $20,000 we put into the Economic Development Authority to pay for expenditures.”

City Administrator said the debt on the city hall building will be paid off in 2023.

“We have quite a few things that will fall off,” Mayor Dale Graunke said. “That’s why we’re projecting out four or five years.”

Graunke thanked Kotten for the question, and welcomed him to town, as he had said he was a new resident.

Bloch further broke down the general fund, explaining that it increased $148,345, or 4.3 percent.

Items impacting expenditures include a 16 percent increase in medical insurance; a 2 percent cost of living adjustment; capital needs; the new splash pad, which revenues are expected to offset; website redesign; and election expenses.

General fund revenues include 69 percent from property taxes, 10 percent from franchise fees, 10 percent from intergovernmental aids, 6 percent from transfers in, 3 percent for licenses and permits, 2 percent for charges for services, and less than 1 percent for other.

Bloch said the property tax percentage decreased by one point because intergovernmental aids increased by one point.

Regarding licenses and permits, Councilman Jon Sutherland said, “As far as estimates on construction activity, I’ve got a gut feeling you’re low. As far as lot inventory, we have more lots than that available in the city.”

Bloch agreed that he expects his estimate of 25 new homes to be low, as there have been more than 50 new homes built in 2017, but he stressed the importance of being conservative.

“If the economy continues the way it has been, we’ll have more permit revenue,” Bloch said. “It’s better to be conservative. One year, we budgeted $300,000, and had trouble getting to $90,000.”

Delano’s tax rate is 54.056 percent, the school district’s tax rate is 43.779 percent, and the county’s tax rate is 39.921 percent, for a total of 137.756 percent. Delano’s city tax rate is sixth lowest in the county, while the total tax rate is sixth highest.

Regarding the portion of taxes that go to the city, Bloch broke down how much services cost each month. For a $260,000 home, $20.82 will go toward parks and trails, $16.89 will go toward street reconstruction debt, $16.05 will go toward snow removal and street maintenance, $15.46 will go toward police, $12.36 will go toward capital outlay, $8.95 will go toward building and infrastructure debt, and $7.68 will go toward fire protection.

“If you compare that to some of your other bills, it puts it into perspective,” Bloch said.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• approved an amendment to the Wright County Area Transportation joint powers agreement to include Wright County. The agreement, which must be approved by all 14 cities included in WCAT, would allow the county to have representation on the Trailblazer Transit board and would require the county to fund 50 percent of transportation costs in the county, and the entire cost in five years.

• approved an ordinance amending city code related to right-of-way management regarding small cell towers within the right of way. Requests for small cell towers within the right of way will be subject to inter-department review. If a tower is abandoned, the company that abandoned it will not be allowed to build another tower within the city’s right of way.

• tabled the County State Aid Highway Corridor study. The study looked at current traffic and pedestrian movements and projected movements for 2027, and beyond 2027. Council members opted to table the study, as they requested more information about pedestrian wait times, and would like the county to consider changes to limit speeds within city limits. These structures must also be at least 10 feet from flood improvement structures.

• accepted a CSAH 17 study regarding river bank erosion near Second Street South. City Engineer Vince Vander Top expressed concerns that the study only addressed erosion and not flood concerns in that area. By accepting the study, the council did not endorse a remedy. City staff will continue to work with county staff to address the situation.

• recognized Dan Smith of the Friends of the Delano Library for various volunteer efforts, including working with the city to retrofit the library with LED fixtures and bulbs and leading a charge to have a mural painted on one of the library’s walls in the future. Smith accepted the award on behalf of the entire Friends of the Delano Library. “I appreciate what the city council has done in helping to fund some of the projects we’ve asked your help on,” Smith said.

• approved the vacation of a portion of a trail easement within Westridge Hills Third and Fourth Additions because the easement went through several homeowners’ properties.

Watch for ‘Last Minute Monday’ coming soon

You’ve heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

A new local promotion named “Last Minute Monday” will be announced in next week’s newspaper.

Last Minute Monday will be Dec. 18 and feature special offers from local area businesses geared for people who still need to finish their holiday shopping and can do so locally.

Watch next week’s newspaper for the details.
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Holiday Train coming to Loretto Dec. 11

LORETTO, MN – The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train will once again stop in Loretto, as part of its 19th year.

The train will arrive at 4:15 p.m. Monday, Dec. 11, with the show beginning at 4:30 p.m.

The public is invited to a number of activities – kiddie train rides, hot chocolate, cookies, the RE/Max hot air parade blower, bonfires, and interesting characters roaming the crowd – beginning at 3 p.m.

Cash and food donations will be accepted for area food shelves in Hanover, Rockford, Delano, and Maple Plain. In 2016, the event raised  more than $22,500 and 1,500 pounds of food.

Canadian country music stars Terri Clark and Dallas Smith will join fellow country singer-songwriter Kelly Prescott, who also performed from the Holiday Train in Loretto in 2016.

Clark has won the Canadian Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year award eight times and the Female Vocalist of the Year award five times.

Smith won the CCMA’s 2017 Album of the Year for “Side Effects” and Single of the Year for “Autograph.”

The free event is a fundraiser for local food banks.

“The Holiday Train program is all about local food banks and food shelves and the critical role they play in our communities,” said Canadian Pacific President and CEO Keith Creel. “People come for the beautifully-lit train and stay for the incredible show – all in the name of community. The holiday season is the best time of the year, and we look forward to bringing together thousands of Canadians and Americans this season for this incredibly important cause and a great time.”

CP is also encouraging fans of the train to donate heart-healthy food, as everyone should have access to healthy, nutritious food, regardless of circumstances. This supports the mission of CP Has Heart, a program dedicated to improving the heart health of men, women and children in North America.

People visiting the Holiday Train are encouraged to take photos and enter CP’s Capture the Spirit photo contest. Participants could win a trip aboard the 2018 CP Holiday Train as well as a $1,000 donation to their local food bank. Further details about the contest will be available closer to the start of the program on the Holiday Train Facebook page at facebook.com/HolidayTrain.

Supporters can follow the Holiday Train on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @CPHolidayTrain.

Winstock 2018 – FULL LINEUP ANNOUNCED!

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SPONSORED POST – This morning, the full Winstock Country Music Festival 25th anniversary celebration lineup was unveiled and features a combination of tried-and-true favorites and some of today’s hottest stars.

Joining Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, and Brothers Osborne June 8-9 in Winsted will be Billy Currington, Luke Combs, Neal McCoy, Sawyer Brown, LANCO, Walker Hayes, Trick Pony, Jordan Davis, Jake McVey, Maiden Dixie, Mitch Gordon and the Unleaded Band, and Jake Nelson.

“We wanted this to be a special lineup that represents Winstock and how we’ve grown over the years,” said Winstock Country Music Festival Chairman Dave Danielson. “For our 25th anniversary, we really wanted to blend some of our favorites along with the top artists of today.

Neal McCoy holds the record for most Winstock performances with five (1998, 01, 05, 09, and 13), and Sawyer Brown has taken the Winstock stage four times (2000, 04, 08, 13).

“To have Neal and Sawyer Brown be part of our 25th anniversary lineup is very special to us,” Danielson said. “They have been with us since the early years, and they’re two acts our fans absolutely love.”

Pairing them with hot newcomers Luke Combs and LANCO, who recently had the number-one hit “Greatest Love Story,” is sure to make it a weekend that all will enjoy.

“We built our foundation as a band on ‘Greatest Love Story’ because we believed in the power of Country music storytelling,” said LANCO lead singer Brandon Lancaster. “To see how much it has resonated with so many people makes us feel a little less crazy for believing in it so much.”

Combs also has hit big with “When It Rains It Pours,” and “Hurricane,” and that’s just the start. The North Carolina native has been featured on many “artists to watch” lists and is currently headlining his own “Don’t Tempt Me With a Good Time” tour into the spring.

Also in 2018, Winstock goers will see a new flair for what has been coined the Emerging Artist Stage over the years. Moving forward, the name of Winstock’s second stage will be more expansive to allow not just newcomers to take the stage. This year, Trick Pony will entertain fans from the new West Stage, along with Walker Hayes, Jordan Davis, and Jake McVey.

To see the complete Winstock ’18 schedule, click HERE. To learn more about the Winstock ’18 artists, visit HERE.

TICKETS

Tickets and camping for Winstock Country Music Festival 2018 went on sale online Oct. 16, with VIP tickets and campgrounds A, B, C, and D having sold out at this year’s event for 2018.

General admission tickets to Winstock ’18 cost $115 before the early-bird deadline of March 15. Note the early-bird date is earlier this year than previous years. Reserved seats cost $185, and camping passes cost $125. All are available now at WinstockFestival.com/tickets or by calling (320) 485-4287.

More Information

For additional announcements, promotions, sponsor and ticket information, and everything Winstock, continue to follow our website, sign up for Winstock E-mail news, follow the festival on Twitter @WinstockMN, and like Winstock on Facebook. Winstock is also on Instagram and Snapchat.

School board addresses unpaid meal charges

DELANO, MN – A cafeteria worker at the Stewartville School District in southern Minnesota recently made headlines after reportedly scraping food off the trays of children whose families owed money for meals.

Delano school officials have denounced such a practice, saying students should never be denied a meal or shamed for having a negative balance.

Delano School Board members unanimously approved the first reading of Policy 534 regarding unpaid meal charges during the board’s Monday evening meeting.

Highlights of the policy drafted by the Minnesota School Board Association and modified by the district include:

• Individual students on a family meal account may not charge more than $5 to the account when the balance reaches zero.

• Schools receiving school lunch aid must make lunch available without charge to all students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals, regardless of account balance.

• A student with an outstanding meal charge debt will be allowed to purchase a meal if the student pays for the meal when it is received.

• When a student has a negative account balance, the student will not be allowed to charge a snack item, a second lunch, or second entrée.

• Families will be notified of a low balance once the account reaches $10. Families will be notified by automated telephone calls, emails from administrative assistants, letters sent home, and/or phone calls from principals.

• Reminders for payment will not demean or stigmatize any student participating in the school lunch program.

• Where appropriate, families may be encouraged to apply for free and reduced-price meals.

• After the district makes reasonable efforts to collect unpaid meal charges, negative balances of more than $25 not paid prior to the end of the school year will be turned over to the superintendent’s office for collection using collection agencies, claims in conciliation court, or another legal method permitted by law.

• The school district may not enlist the assistance of non-district employees, such as volunteers, to engage in debt-collection efforts.

• The policy must be provided in writing via mail, email, back-to-school packets, student handbooks, etc. to all households at or before the start of the school year, students and families who transfer into the school district, and all district personnel responsible for enforcing the policy. It may also be posted on the district’s policy in addition.

Though board members did not discuss the policy Monday, they discussed it at length during an Oct. 23 work session.

Business Manager Mary Reeder explained that, per legislation, every school district is required to have an unpaid meal charge policy in place.

She added that 2017 was the first time any meal overdrafts were sent to collections.

“This was our first year of going into the summer with almost $1,000 in unpaid meal debt,” Reeder said. “In the past, we’ve had zero or under $50.”

Five accounts with more than $50 in unpaid charges were sent to collections, Reeder said.

She confirmed that principals had contacted the families, in addition to emails and automated phone calls they received.

“Principals reach out to the families to find out: Do we need to put a meal plan in place? Is there an issue with the family that maybe they need a little help, so that’s where we come in with Random Acts of Kindness (dollars)? Did you suffer a job change or something that may have changed your income, so maybe we can look at the free and reduced application?” Reeder said. “We go through all those processes but, sometimes families, whether it’s an embarrassment factor, they just don’t respond back.”

“Even back when I was principal, I had a few conversations with families,” Superintendent Matt Schoen said. “As long as it’s done in a safe, not a public environment – this is a private conversation – then the administration has the discretion to put dollars in the account. I did that several times.”

He added that principals, not district staff, are in the best position to decipher if a family is in need because they know the families better.

School board member Rachel Depa said she was concerned for children on family accounts who may not get a meal because siblings charged for meals before them, causing a negative balance.

“I have a problem with that because it’s not the kid’s fault,” Depa said.

While the policy may call for meals to be denied at times, Reeder said that is not the district’s practice.

Depa said she was contacted by a parent who said her child was denied lunch during the previous school year.

“That shouldn’t be the case,” Schoen said.

Johnson said there have been issues in the past when this issue was “not handled in the most professional manner.”

“They’re not supposed to shame the children at all,” Reeder said. “That’s a training thing.”

Board member Carolyn Milano said a negative balance should not be communicated to children at all.

“As a parent, I’m notified, and I’m fine with that notification,” Milano said. “I agree with Amy. I don’t think you should say anything to the kids. You’re totally notified as it goes under $10.”

Schoen added that parents could change their preference to be notified sooner than when the account reaches $10.

“I’m not concerned with the notification,” Depa said. “As long as we’re feeding the kids, I’m happy. I just don’t ever want to embarrass a kid or punish a kid because mom and dad either didn’t pay, couldn’t pay, or had other priorities than their children.”

The second and final read of the policy is scheduled to take place during the next meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 18, in the high school media center.

Odds and ends

In other business, the board:

• heard the auditor’s report from Janel Bitzan, of BerganKDV. Bitzan said BerganKDV issued an unmodified opinion of the audit, which is the best possible. She noted a lack of segregation of accounting duties, which is a common finding for school districts of Delano’s size. She said revenues have been increasing, and that the district should continue to grow its fund balance, due to the growth of the district.

• heard the World’s Best Workforce report from Director of Teaching and Learning Joe Vieau. Part of the report included aspects of the Every Student Succeeds Act: students who opt out of testing will count against the district, all student groups will have equal weight, graduation rates of all students will be an indicator, and 90 to 95 percent attendance will be the goal.

• approved the facility use procedures manual.

• accepted a total of $43,639 in donations, along with books for high school language arts classes, from 16 entities and individuals.

• approved personnel matters, including the resignation of Delano High School cheerleading coach Lindsay Welch and the hiring of head baseball coach Jeff Olson.

• learned about physical education programming at Delano Elementary School.

Striebel sentenced for role in Montrose dragging death

BUFFALO, MN – A Howard Lake man was sentenced Wednesday for his role in the dragging death of Justin Harvey Aug. 28, 2016.

James Striebel

James Striebel

James Daniel Striebel, 19, was ordered to serve 57 months in prison, provide a DNA sample, and pay restitution, according to the Wright County Attorney’s Office. He will receive credit for serving 459 days in jail.

Striebel was initially charged with second-degree murder and robbery in connection with the death.

He pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter Nov. 7.

The driver of the vehicle, Noelle Angelique Ziegelmann, 20, of St. Michael, was sentenced to 41 months in prison in June after pleading guilty to criminal vehicular homicide.

According to criminal complaints, Striebel and Ziegelmann conspired to steal a quarter ounce of marijuana from Harvey near 500 First St. N. in Montrose.

When Harvey handed the marijuana to Striebel, Ziegelmann reportedly accelerated. A witness said Harvey hung onto the side of the truck as it was accelerating away and was dragged by the vehicle.

Harvey was badly injured and later died at Hennepin County Medical Center.