Eagan City Council approves property tax hike

   While Eagan homeowners are footing the bill for a 7.4 percent city spending hike, commercial taxpayers, which have generated thousands of calls to the Eagan police department, will be getting a tax cut, according to a presentation by city officials.
   The Eagan City Council Dec. 5 approved a two-year budget for 2018 and 2019. The city’s spending will increase from $36 million to $38 million under the two-year plan, which includes a 5.2 percent property tax hike for city homeowners in 2018 and a larger levy increase, 5.6 percent, for Eagan homeowners in 2019. In approving the budget, the city council rejected the opportunity to extend public comment for two weeks. There was no public comment at the Dec. 5 hearing, held on the day of a snowstorm.
   Although much of the need for the increase has been attributed to commercial development, large commercial taxpayers will be getting a tax cut, according to city figures. A $1.3 million commercial property will receive a 9.4 percent tax cut in 2018, according to the city’s budget presentation. A $3.4 million commercial property will pay 1.6 percent less in city property tax in 2018, according to city officials.
   “Eagan is growing like crazy,” finance director Tom Pepper said. That growth  demands services but does not contribute to city tax revenues for a year or two after construction. The premium outlet mall has generated 1,385 calls to police this year, according to city officials. The newly built Central Park Commons has generated 573 calls so far this year. City officials could not estimate the number of calls that will result from the new Vikings compound and other new developments in the city.
   The new budget includes five new police officers and 12 full-time firefighters to be hired over two years, which accounted for about half of the increase, according to City Councilor Gary Hansen. The city has struggled to maintain a paid-on-call fire department, Pepper said, prompting the need to hire full-time firefighters.
   City officials spent weeks before the Dec. 5 public hearing on a public relations campaign to sell the tax hike, which included a promotional video presented at the hearing and a live call-in program on social media.
   Before last Tuesday’s public hearing, city officials made a presentation to Eagan’s Rotary Club and planned to make another presentation after the hearing. The hearing started with a promotional video opening with a shot of a Dakota County tax bill with the numbers blurred out. The video referred to the budget increase as a 5.2% levy hike, the amount to be collected from city taxpayers this year, rather than a 7.4 percent spending increase.
   The promotional video, the cost of which was not revealed at the public hearing, focused on public safety needs. The presentation included a montage of shots showing firefighters and police officers training on a staged fire and filling the gas tank of a police cruiser.
   The video also included shots of the new Viking headquarters, noting that commercial development costs taxpayers money.
St. Louis has its Gateway Arch and, soon, Eagan will have its golden arches. The Eagan City Council approved a series of variances related to a plan to raze and replace the McDonald's restaurant on Erin Drive. The project will include a larger sign on a 50-foot tall pylon and expanded drive-thru.
Report of assault leads to drug charge after Eagan police search victim's car
     
   An Inver Grove Heights man is facing a drug possession charge following his report of an assault.
   David Dybedahl, 35, of 8471 Bechtel Ave., Inver Grove Heights, was charged with gross misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance in connection with an Aug. 29 report of an assault.
   According to a criminal complaint, police responded to Pilot Knob Road near I-494 for a report of an Uber driver assaulted by a customer shortly before 8:45 p.m. on Aug. 29. Dybedahl had a large cut on his arm and had pulled over feeling lightheaded, according to police.
   While the driver was being treated in an ambulance, he asked police to get his cell phone from his car so he could call his mother. While searching for the cell phone, according to the complaint, police found several plastic bags and two straws containing a white powdery residue.
   Police then found a digital scale and glass bubble pipe under the cup holder, according to police. The pipe field-tested positive for methamphetamine, according to the complaint.
   Dybedahl later admitted the assault occurred during a drug transaction, not by an Uber customer, according to court records.