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Budget concerns aired at Crow Wing County meeting

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Carol Treska, who spent 25 years working at Potlatch, has lived in the same home for 40 years on an unpaved street and owns a dog without a pedigree.

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But Tuesday Treska made the drive to the Crow Wing County Board meeting to tell the commissioners her property taxes went up 31.3 percent.

Treska stood before the Crow Wing County Board Tuesday saying even though she hasn’t made a change on her property, her taxes went up 31.3 percent.

The 68-year-old who worked as a shipping loader at Potlatch makes her home in the southeastern edge of the county.

“This is scary as hell,” Treska said. “I didn’t work all those years to end up losing a home because I can’t afford my taxes.”

Board members, who need to make a final decision on the county budget and tax levy by Dec. 28, heard from a handful of people during the public hearing.

Resident Kurt Martin commended the county on handling a 40 percent increase in population since 1990 with just a 3 percent increase in staff to 417 during that period. “That’s pretty impressive,” Martin said.

In looking at the budget, Martin pointed to the increases in employee wages and benefits and said they are far exceeding the private sector.

The county’s tax rate would rise from 29.79 percent in 2011 to 32.41 percent with the proposed budget for 2012. The proposed tax levy $34,876,657 for 2012 is a 2.37 percent reduction from 2011, which is a decrease of $845,039. The county’s budget grew from $67,491,709 in 2011 to $70,464,618 proposed for 2012. If this budget is approved, it is the second straight year of reductions.

Empty buildings, vacant retail space and the unemployment rate are indications of the what is going on in the private sector, Martin said, noting business owners are seeing a 40 percent decrease in revenue.

“I’m one of those that’s in excess of 40 percent,” Martin said.

Seasonal property owner Ken Glidden from Mounds View, who has a homestead in Ramsey County, told the board there was a disparity in the treatment of property taxpayers as his taxes went down at his home and up at his seasonal property. Glidden said the county is choosing to increase expenditures by $3 million and considering the economy and the state’s reduction in market value credit his property values dropped by almost 7 percent while his proposed tax burden went up by a little more than 2 percent. Glidden said his residential taxes in Ramsey County went down by 5 percent showing a difference in how the counties were dealing with budgets. Reacting to Glidden’s comments on disparity of treatment, Commissioner Phil Trusty wondered if taxes went down for second home owners in Ramsey County.

“You’re talking about an apple and an orange here,” Administrator Tim Houle said.

Mike Carlson, county finance director, said the largest growth in the county’s expenditures is in capital outlay spending and associated with the move to the 800 megahertz radio system for emergency communication. Money has been set aside for that project for the last several years. The county has been working to a “pay as you go” strategy to save for expenditures versus short-term borrowing.

Darrel Palmer, Nisswa, applauded the county on working hard to control costs.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5852.

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Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
(218) 855-5852
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