There were 2 options for Paid parental leave on the Northfield Council agenda. A new policy that a committee had been formed to create. That committee recommended an additional 2 weeks of paid leave for Beginning of Life events and to care for a family member (up to twice a year). In a 4 to 3 vote, the Council approved another option of 6 weeks of additional paid leave for pregnancies specifically. Mayor Pownell and Councilors Nakasian, Zweifel and Peterson White voted in favor. Peterson White saying, “I think this is something that younger employees who are on the market for jobs in this very tight labor market value it enormously and I also think it’s the right thing to do”. Councilor Colby said part of the purpose of the policy was to
attract employees, however, “I would point out that the City of Rochester, the City of Faribault, Rice County, Owatonna, Dakota County, don’t have a policy. That doesn’t justify not having one here but the longest period of time provided for a similar kind of is the City of St. Paul which is 4 weeks. Minneapolis offer 3 weeks”. He felt they went too far and would vote for the week option. Councilor Ness stated, “I’m only going to be in support of Option 1. I think the committee came up with a very good alternative for implementing this policy and I think the employees need to take a little personal responsibility and buy the short term disability insurance which would give them approximately the same amount of leave as Option 2″. Employees can purchase short term disability at any time but it must be before conception. They already receive 2 weeks plus FMLA plus accrued sick and vacation time. DeLong felt it was a political issue, he said, “have people quit applying for City of Northfield jobs? No. Are hundreds of other cities offering maternity leave? No. The solution to all that’s wrong with the system does not rest on a majority vote of the Northfield City Council. This started out as a little paid leave for everyone, paid leave on a provisional basis at a cost that could be absorbed into the budget without raising taxes”. DeLong pointed out that the City is not Carleton or General Mills or a city with plenty of tax base. This policy is retroactive to accommodate currently pregnant employees. Pownell said it’s a small portion of their budget. As for the committees that make recommendations, she remarked that the Council has legislative authority, “and so no policy committee ever can come in and say this is our recommendation and you have to do it. I think this is such a unique and new issue for our community, I think it needed to be really fully vetted by the Council as a whole”. That vote also meant approving the levy at 4.9% as opposed to 4.4%. Which was also a 4 to 3 vote. Mayor Pownell said the difference between the two is about $5 per year. Included in the 4.9% is $30,000 for an employee accruals & benefits analysis and $20,000 for a consultant regarding the Riverfront. Administrator Martig said, “basically to have somebody to help do some kind of formal planning that we can have to put some projects into play so we certainly think there will be some projects, capital projects that will probably come out of that”. Digging through the dollars the City spends on consultants and such is complicated. There were those in the audience, mostly seniors on fixed incomes, that were not pleased with the choices that were made by the Council and commented later that they felt like they were not heard. These are 2 supplemental memos that Council received yesterday afternoon with powerpoints and a lot more information: 2018_12_4 City Council Supplemental Agenda Background Memo for December 4, 2018 No 1 (1)
EDA and HRA levies set at 5%
Northfield Council unanimously approved 5% for the HRA levy which comes to just over $256,000. And the EDA levy at 5% which is over $251,000. Each department receives a portion of the property taxes by State Law. 5% is the maximum allowed. According to City Staff, the overall 2019 tax rate for the EDA and HRA will decrease from the 2018 tax rate due to expanded tax capacity.
NAFRS holds Spaghetti Dinner for Operation Joy
The Northfield Area Fire & Rescue Service (NAFRS) is holding their annual Spaghetti Dinner on Saturday, Dec. 8th at the Northfield VFW from 5pm to 7:30pm. This is a fundraiser for Operation Joy – formerly Christmas Sharing through the Community Action Center. Tickets are $9 for Adults and $3 for kids. Or, bring a new unwrapped gift of $20 or more and get complimentary admission for two. Meet the Vikings Cheerleaders.