Jensen will take over as acting director of community development; Hillmann discusses neighborhood insurance; Meetings Scheduled to Discuss County Property Valuations

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On Tuesday evening, Northfield City Council approved Teresa Jensen as interim Director of Community Development, she will replace the outgoing Director of Community Development, Mitzi Baker.

Jensen served in the dual role of director of city library services and director of information technology for seven years, until his retirement at the end of 2020. City administrator Ben Martig has said that after Baker submitted his resignation, he started a list of people who might be able to take on the considerably busy and complicated job of running the city’s community development department, and Jensen’s name was the very first he thought of.

The Community Development Department has a number of different facets. It is home to the planning department, and with no less than three major housing developments, and possibly more, due to start this year, there is a considerable amount of work to be done. The same goes for the inspections department, which is also responsible for residential rental licensing and enforcement. The Department also has many responsibilities for the Downtown Development Corporation and its Main Street America program monitoring site. There are also responsibilities to the Heritage and Preservation Commission and the Economic Development Authority.

Additionally, the department recently hired a new full-time position and is working to fill another, both created in Budget 2022. The Director will be instrumental in helping to detail the job responsibilities these positions will entail. . Martig said working with and getting to know the community are essential parts of being a community development director. Jensen’s background with the library and IT makes her the perfect candidate for the acting role, and that’s why it was her first phone call.

“Obviously, this position, from a library perspective, is very customer service oriented. I believe she supervised over 24 full time employees and a few part time employees. She was known as a very good manager. People liked working with her and they had a very positive team atmosphere. And then on information technology, our staff working on our computer systems and networks, he went through many departments. So internally, we know Teresa pretty well. She brings a positive energy to the table and I think she will fill the interim role well.

Mayor Rhonda Pownell was also very clearly thrilled to see Jensen back with the city and noted that his “creativity will pay off great.”

Director Baker’s last day with the city will be tomorrow. Jensen will assume the interim position on Tuesday.

Jeff Johnson’s full conversation with City Administrator Ben Martig and Mayor Rhonda Pownell can be heard here

District faced with rising insurance premiums

On Monday night, Northfield Public School District Chief Financial Officer Val Mertesdorf made a presentation to the school board on two

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Matt Hillmann

sections of the budget showing both the health and the difficulties of the school district’s financial situation.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Matt Hillmann said Mertesdorf reported on two funds, the Debt Service Fund and the Internal Service Fund.

The debt service fund is the fund the district uses to pay its bail debts. Hillmann said this fund is highly regulated by the state of Minnesota. By law, the district is required to collect 105% of what it owes in bond. The state then calculates the district’s excess money in the fund, and whatever remains is returned to the ratepayers. Hillmann said the fund was being administered as it should and everything was going well.

However, they face some challenges with their employee health insurance, which is administered by the Internal Service Fund.

The Northfield School District operates a self-insured health and dental program that was honored by the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs as an innovative local government program.

The number of health plan claims has increased dramatically in recent years, and so after eight years of not having to raise health insurance premiums, they faced a 25% increase in January. Hillmann said the district was able to use some reserve dollars and money received through one of the federal government’s Covid relief funds to minimize the impact on employees this year. However, much of that money was in a one-time relief payment, which the district will now have to find ways to keep employees from being hit by a big bonus hike in 2023.

“Our employees have worked very hard during the pandemic under different and more difficult circumstances than they have ever seen. We didn’t think it was up to them to bear the burden, so the district stepped in, using some of our strategic resources to buy this bounty increase for a year. And then we’re working on how to mitigate that next January.

Meanwhile, he said, the district’s dental plan is in great shape. There hasn’t been an increase to that plan since 2006, and he doesn’t see one coming in 2023.

Jeff Johnson’s full conversation with Superintendent of Schools Dr. Matt Hillmann can be heard here

Rice County property tax statements are in the mail

Rice County property owners can expect to receive two statements in the mail in the coming days, and the county is offering assistance to ensure that everyone understands what each document means and where to find help and clarification.

The first is a tax statement, which shows a property’s assessment in 2021, total tax due in 2022, and a breakdown of how each tax district, which in Northfield is city, district school and county, will receive these funds.

The second statement is an assessment notice. This document informs the owner of the 2022 value of their property as determined by the Rice County Assessor. This is the amount that will be used to calculate the next year’s taxes for the property.

If a property owner disagrees with the assessment, the county emphasizes that a person should not wait to contact the assessor’s office, as there is limited time to dispute a property’s assessment.

Several meetings are scheduled for homeowners to discuss their assessment with the county assessor. The meeting for most county residents, except those who live in Wells and Forrest townships, is set for Monday, April 11.and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Rice County Government Services Building in Faribault.

For more information about filings and how to find help, visit the County Assessor page on the Rice County website.

Rich Larson is KYMN’s News Director. Contact him at [email protected]

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