W’bago to cut ag land taxes

WINNEBAGO – Winnebago City Council on Tuesday moved to lower the tax rate for tillable ag land inside city limits, which would increase tax rates on other property.

Most of Faribault County is facing a de-annexation issue, said City Administrator Chris Ziegler. Townships’ tax rate on ag land is lower than in cities because the townships don’t have as many services to offer, so some land owners might take steps to cut their ties to cities. If that happened, the cities would lose tax revenue.

Ziegler said Winnebago, Bricelyn and Blue Earth were the only cities in the county that have not established rural service districts. He proposed the council consider it.

Some of the parcels of tillable ag land in Winnebago do have city services, such as water or sewer, or both.

“If we did some sort of tax lowering, it would show our concern and willingness to work with everybody,” said Councilwoman Jean Anderson.

Councilman Rick Johnson moved lowering the tax rate 30 percent for tillable ag land and setting a public hearing for Aug. 13, the next council meeting. Councilman Scott Robertson abstained, saying he will be directly affected, but the others approved it.

To illustrate how much the tax rate will increase on the non-ag land in town, Ziegler said a $75,000 home would see a $25 annual increase.

In other business Monday, the council approved the city lifeguards getting a day off so they could go to Valleyfair.

Charlotte Haugh and Carrie Stebakken said 9 of the 12 guards are on duty at any given time, so they can’t do an activity as a group. They can’t go at night, because some of the guards are young and the parents would object. They said 10 of the guards would like to go to Valleyfair, and asked the council to choose Aug. 13, 14 or 15.

The council approved the guards taking off either Aug. 13 or 14, as long as they let the council know which day and put up signage around town to alert the public.

On another topic, the council approved new office hours for City Hall.

Ziegler wanted to change the hours to 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. This would give residents time before work to stop in and take care of business. The Public Works and police departments already open at 7:30 a.m. and this would provide continuity as well.

He also asked that the change be in force year-round and the council agreed.

In other business, the council approved:

o Purchase of four picnic tables at $647 each, for a total of $2,588. The money will come out of the trust fund savings account.

o Accepted the resignation of Todd Heenan, animal control officer. Police Chief Bob Toland said Heenan had submitted his resignation in the other communities in which he serves as animal control officer. A public safety officer will fill the role until further notice, Ziegler said.