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Park Rapids 2010 tax levy approved

The 2010 Park Rapids city budget and property tax levy were approved Tuesday night after hearing news that December's Local Government Aid payment would be spared from unallotment.

At the city's Truth in Taxation hearing, the 2010 property tax levy was passed at $1,983,127. The total increase in the 2010 budget is 2.73 percent.

The city of Park Rapids ended 2009 in a deficit, due in part to revenues coming in less than projected, said city administrator Bill Smith. Also, a portion of the city's LGA was cut.

According to research prepared for the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, proposed 2010 cuts to LGA for Park Rapids are $172,541. The city has already seen cuts to LGA in 2009 ($74,778) and 2008 ($86,085). If LGA is cut in 2010, the total reductions in Park Rapids LGA from 2008-10 will be $333,404.

Governor Tim Pawlenty, in a letter to the League of Minnesota Cities and Association of Minnesota Counties on Tuesday, wrote, "Absent meaningful alternatives, one necessary component of a budget-cutting solution will be reductions to local aid programs. However, the local aid payments scheduled for payment later this month - including local government aid, county program aid, market value credit, and other local aid programs - will not be subject to further unallotment as part of this solution.

He said it was possible that future LGA payments could be cut.

"If the Legislature is unable to pass appropriate budget reductions, I will take the necessary actions to resolve the budget deficit," Pawlenty said in the letter. "Future local aid program payments would likely be part of that budget solution."

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Wadena Mayor Wayne Wolden, spokesmen for the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, released a statement in response to Pawlenty's decision:

"We applaud and thank Governor Pawlenty for recognizing that Minnesota cities have hit the financial edge and additional cuts would jeopardize public safety and do further harm to our fledgling economy."

The mayors said that over the past seven years, Minnesota cities have lost $754 million in LGA, resulting in a 64 percent increase in property taxes and cuts to core services.

"As a major winter storm is bearing down on us, the critical role our cities play in the lives of our citizens is no more apparent than today," the mayors continued in their response to the Governor. "Across the state, cities are battling the storm by plowing streets, dropping salt and doing everything we can to protect the safety of Minnesota families. All of us know that this comes at a cost.

"We look forward to working with the governor and the legislature in the upcoming session to ensure our cities will continue to be protected."

At its regular meeting following the Truth in Taxation hearing, the council:

-Accepted a low bid from Eagle Construction for the well and wellhouse improvement project. The bid was for $682,900.

-Approved the city of Park Rapids Pay Equity Compliance Report and the submission of the report to the Minnesota Department of Employee Relations.

-Approved a resolution adopting the Safety and Health Program for the city of Park Rapids. Council member Pat Mikesh, who served on the committee that reviewed the program, said it was a pretty general program that could be changed in the future.