Chris McKern

KASSON — A lot of rain may add a little to the tax bill in Kasson. 

Wednesday night, the Kasson City Council passed a preliminary 2020 property tax levy of $3,549,328, a 13.72 increase over the 2019 levy.

An increase of roughly 5-6 percent would be necessary just to maintain city government at its current level due to increased payroll and health care costs, said Mayor Chris McKern. The remaining portion of the increase is driven by costs of repairs and other projects related to the flooding this summer. 

City Engineer Brandon Theobald said seven projects were identified as part of the state's disaster declaration that is still awaiting final approval by Gov. Tim Walz. 

McKern said state funding is designed to return damaged infrastructure to its previous state, but fixing infrastructure around town gives the city the opportunity to spend a little extra to help avoid problems in the future.

For example, any street repair that is part of the state infrastructure repair funding gives the city the opportunity to check the stormwater pipes under the road to make sure there is no damage, or that older pipes don't need to be replaced with a larger diameter. 

"We just did First Street Northeast, a mill and overlay project for two blocks," McKern said. "We paid to have the storm sewer televised to see if there are any problems in the storm sewers."

McKern said fixing the streets after the flooding from June 28 and July 5 is a priority for the city, and making mitigation against future damage is just smart spending.

“If you find a spot to do this little bit, but if you spend the extra $200,000 you’ve fixed it for the next 30 years,” he said. 

That said, the general consensus on the city council was that while the preliminary levy was set at a 13.72 percent increase, the council members would like to shave that down as much as possible.

Several members of the audience chimed in at the council's request, saying that not just fixing infrastructure but improving it, fortifying it against future heavy rain events should be a priority even if it costs a little extra.

McKern said that once final health care costs for 2020 and union negotiations were finalized, the task before the city council would be to target infrastructure spending while keeping the budget and levy as lean as possible. 

“The more we can get it down, the better, but also getting done what needs to be done,” McKern said.

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Regional Reporter

Brian Todd is a 1997 graduate of Nebraska-Omaha. He covers Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona and Houston counties and writes a weekly column about the life of a reporter.