Austin City Council holds I-90 bridge replacement project municipal consent public hearing, discuss 2023 budget at Monday meeting

The Austin City Council held an I-90 bridge replacement project municipal consent public hearing at their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday evening, as Public Works Director Steven Lang stated to the council that as part of the project, MnDOT had made a request for city approval of the final design layouts of the project, or municipal consent.  Jai Kalsy, MnDOT District 6 Project Manager and Dave Nelson, Project Manager with SRF Consulting Group of Minneapolis were on hand to review the designs on four different bridge projects upcoming in the city of Austin, including Oakland Avenue, or Highway 105, 14th Street, or U.S. Highway 218 North, 4th Street and 21st Street, or U.S. Highway 218 South.  Work will be taking place on eight different bridges overall in Austin, starting in the late summer of 2023 and continuing until 2026.

In other business, the Austin City Council approved an ordinance for the regulation of edible cannabinoids, as a new Minnesota law recently went into effect that permits people 21 years of age and older to purchase edibles and beverages that contain a limited amount of THC, the ingredient in marijuana that creates a high, as long as they are under five milligrams per serving.  The council also approved the city’s annual fall yard waste program, which will run from September 17th to November 27th, and in a work session following their regular agenda, the council discussed the 2023 budget and levy for the city with Director of Administrative Services Tom Dankert. 

It was the consensus of the council at the work session following their August 15th meeting to have city staff reduce the tax levy from 7.05% to a range of 3.5 to 6%, and Dankert stated that he had worked with Mayor Steve King and staff to present further expenditure reductions and revenue enhancements for 2023 in order to get the levy into the council’s target range.  Dankert stated to the council that with the proposed reductions, the total tax levy would be lowered from $8,500,000 to $8,338,000, or a 5.01% increase from 2022.  The council then voted to remove various proposed positions from the 2023 budget to further reduce the levy, including an additional building inspector, a technology coordinator and library aide that had both been requested by the Austin Public Library.  The council also approved $137,000 in budget reductions that were presented to them at Tuesday’s work session, in addition to $661,450 in proposed reductions and revenue enhancements from their August 15th work session to lower the levy further to $8,283,000, or 4.32%. 

The council will need to approve the final budget and levy for the city for 2023 at their meeting on September 19th, as cities in Minnesota must have their final budgets and levies in place for 2023 by September 30th. After that date, the levy can be lowered, but not raised until the final budget and levy for 2023 are approved at the council’s last meeting for 2022 in December.