Greetings! Here’s city-related news for residents of Ward 1 and beyond.
2023 preliminary budget & tax levy: Last month council approved a preliminary general tax levy increase of 8% for 2023, with the expectation that the final levy approved in December will be closer to 7%. Current economic conditions are jacking up costs for the City just like everyone else, including for fuel, utilities & contracted services. The May/June watermain breaks are a factor too, with federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds the City received, initially earmarked to reduce taxes over the next few years, redirected to finance watermain-related costs. (A portion of ARPA funds will still be used to lower the tax burden.) We also hold considerable debt for recent major projects including Westwood Hills Nature Center, The ROC, and the Dakota-Edgewood Trail Bridge, which will continue to impact the levy for the next several years.
Along with the general fund tax levy we’re accustomed to hearing about, City services are funded through two additional, smaller levies: the Housing & Redevelopment Authority (HRA) levy and the Economic Development Authority (EDA) levy. The HRA and EDA levies will see little/no increase in 2023. This means the “all inclusive” preliminary levy for city services – the actual increase people will see — is about 7.76%, not 8%, and may be under 7% by the time council approves the 2023 final budget and levies.
Rising home prices in SLP will exacerbate the levy increase for some residents. For the owner of a median value home (valued at $371,800 in 2022, a 12.5% increase over 2021), the preliminary levy increase equates to about $200/year more in city taxes, or about $17/month. For residents of a modest apartment in SLP, the average increase with the preliminary levy is about $56/year, or $4.60/month.
If you’d like to share how property taxes affect you, please email me here.
Watermain inspection: The May/June watermain breaks put SLP on high alert as we confront the reality of aging infrastructure and the potential for additional disasters. In a proactive move, last month council approved a contract with PICA Corporation to evaluate pipe wall thickness on watermain located under portions of Minnetonka Boulevard, Cedar Lake Road, and Louisiana Avenue. The pilot project, using a new technology called See Snake, will help staff assess how well the technology works and inform future actions around watermain inspection, replacement, and repair. The inspections will take place before winter and cause minimal disruption to residents.
Labor shortage/yard waste pickup: Staffing challenges have delayed yard waste pickup for many residents this year, causing frustration. Council is set to approve an agreement this week between Waste Management and a subcontractor, Waste Container Systems, to do weekly yard waste collection in SLP for at least the next twelve months. Let's hope that helps.
SLP Votes! Nearly one-third of all registered voters in SLP, or 10,646 people, voted in the August primary and school district special election. Our own Ward 1 had the highest of turnout of all the wards, at 36.9%, helped by 52.5% turnout in Precinct 1 which includes the Fern Hill and Lake Forest neighborhoods. Well done folks! City election staff are reviewing precincts with lower turnout numbers to ensure proper outreach and address any information gaps prior to the general election in November. Early voting starts September 23!
New eateries: Notices about new places to eat & drink invariably get the most clicks in my monthly updates. It’s fun to eat out in SLP! Here are two new places. Sato Sushi & American Fusion just opened in the former Prime Deli space at 4224 Minnetonka Blvd. The new restaurant will follow Jewish dietary guidelines and offer kosher fare like burgers, hot dogs & schnitzel along with fresh sushi. Bogart’s Doughnut Company will soon open in the Miracle Mile Shopping Center, serving raised and cake doughnuts, coffee & soft-serve ice cream.
Related/Honey & Rye plans to expand: Popular local hotspot Honey & Rye has applied for a loan from the City to purchase and renovate a building at 4615 Excelsior Blvd., former home of Judith McGrann & Friends, for a coffee shop, bakery and cooking classroom. They’ll maintain their storefront at 4501 Excelsior Blvd. too. Judith McGrann & Friends moved over to the TexaTonka Shopping Center this summer.
More city solar: The City’s solar capacity just increased 84% with the installation of a 246-kilowatt solar array on top of the Rec Center’s east arena last month. Fire Station 2, the Municipal Service Center, and Westwood Hills Nature Center also have solar arrays, but this is the largest array on any city facility. There's one example of our Climate Action Plan in action!
Juneteenth holiday for staff: Council recently approved the addition of Juneteenth as a paid city holiday to show systemic support for advancing racial equity and to align with federally recognized holidays. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day that enslaved people in Galveston, Texas finally received the news that they were free—two years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and one year after the Senate passed the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. SLP joins many other cities in making Juneteenth a paid holiday for city employees including St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Here’s a select list of upcoming events in SLP:
SLP Art Fair, Saturday, Sept. 10, 10-5, The ROC. Art by more than 70 local artists along with maker booths, food trucks, live music, art demos, exhibits, art cars, youth artist mini-market, and family-friendly community art projects. Info here.
Birchwood Neighborhood 5K, 1 mile & kids dash, Saturday, Sept. 10, 10-2, Birchwood Park. Walk/run/roll around the Birchwood neighborhood in this 5th annual event. Info here.
STEP Fundraiser, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 5-7 pm, Steel Toe Brewing. Socialize and raise money for neighbors in need who receive help from STEP. Tickets here.
MinnesoThai, Saturday, Sept. 17, 11-9 & Sun., Sept. 18, 11-6, West End Event Area. Authentic Thai street food, traditional musical performances, local vendors, games, and a beer garden. Info here.
Shout Out Loud Concert & Wellness Carnival, Saturday, Oct 1, 11-8, The ROC. Live music, carnival games, food trucks, art activities & more. This family-friendly event is focused on raising awareness and sharing resources on suicide prevention.
Thanks for reading and please stay in touch!
I send out a monthly summary of city-related news to Ward 1 residents and interested others, posted here. If you’d like to receive it via email, let me know here.