Voters will have the final say, but city council members conditionally approved a tax increase Monday night.
That’s not how the issue was framed, but council approved an agreement between the city and the school district to fund 50 percent of the infrastructure related to the Gardner Edgerton School District bond issue.
The $73 million bond issues, if voters approve it, will fund a new elementary and middle school near the center of town. School officials say that for district patrons, there will be no tax increase for the bond issue within the first year after passage. But residents in Gardner proper will see a 2 mill increase to service debt on road improvements near the school.
They’ll also have increased utility rates on top of built-in increases. In total, Gardner residents will fund $2.04 million worth of infrastructure related to the school bond issue. All district patrons, including Edgerton residents and those who live in unincorporated areas near the two communities, would fund the $73 million bond issue.
Council member Larry Fotovich opposed the agreement.
“It’s going to be a financial burden,” he told council. Typically, the developer, in this case it’s the school district, funds infrastructure related to their projects. Fotovich also asked Mayor Dave Drovetta, who is not a voting member of the council, whether he would side with staff and vote against funding a part of the school district’s project.
“My opinion is we need schools,” he said.
Fotovich also wondered how voters would be made aware that bond issue approval will include a tax increase for Gardner citizens. City staff will include the information on the city’s website and it will be included in the Inside Gardner newsletter.
At a work session last week, council member Chris Morrow opposed moving forward with the agreements, but he voted to approve the contract on Monday night.
“I’m just wondering why we weren’t getting updates along the way,” Morrow said.
USD 231 Superintendent Bill Gilhaus asked city council members to approve such an agreement last March. However, the council declined to do so in lieu of upcoming council elections in April.
“We didn’t talk about it for almost six months,” Morrow said. “And then we get it on a Thursday to vote on it on a Monday… In the future, when we’re talking about raising taxes on residents, it shouldn’t be a one-hour discussion on an item we’ve had 72 hours to commiserate on.”
Few items on the council agenda garnered the full support of council members. One was an ordinance to create a sanitary sewer benefit district. The other approved the sale of parcels of land to adjoining lot owners at Gardner Lake. The rest of the items on the Oct. 17 agenda, including the approval of minutes from a previous meeting, garnered some dissension.
Fotovich requested that comments he made about a bill from Springsted, the company that consulted on the failed city administrator search, be
included in the minutes.
Drovetta opposed amending the minutes. He said Fotovich’s changes to the minutes are verbatim and the minutes are to be summaries of the meeting.
“I think if any council member wants something clarified for any reason, that should be allowed,” council member Kristina Harrison said.
In the final vote, council member Dennis Pugh opposed amending the minutes. Springsted’s bill for consulting services was the reason Fotovich opposed the standing approval of expenditures.
Council initially approved an $11,000 contract for consulting services, but paid $16,800.
Drovetta said the initial contract was for $11,000 plus expenses, but Fotovich questioned whether some of the services for which the city was billed were actually performed. He moved that council request a $4,749 in credits from Springsted. Fotovich’s motion died for lack of a second.
Immediately after the vote, Pugh moved to approve the expenditures and council member Brian Broxterman seconded. Drovetta asked for the vote, but Fotovich interrupted saying according to Robert’s Rules of Order, there should be discussion after a motion and second – not an immediate vote. Three members voiced their ayes.
Fotovich requested that city attorney Jim Hubbard provide clarification on parliamentary procedure.
“We don’t follow Robert’s Rules of Order,” Hubbard said. “This rehashing of things is unproductive.”
Later in the meeting, Fotovich requested that Hubbard become an expert in Robert’s Rules of Order.
“You stated that we don’t use Robert’s Rules of Order, and what I wanted was a lawyer-like idea of where,” Fotovich said before being interrupted by Hubbard.
“If you have an ordinance that adopts Robert’s Rules of Order, I was not aware of it,” Hubbard said.
Interim City Administrator Melissa Mundt confirmed that the city does have an ordinance adopting Robert’s Rules of Order.
In other business, council members approved a consulting contract with Mike Press. Press to serve as interim-city administrator.
Council approves conditional tax increase