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Greenwood Township voters back $150,000 levy

Jodi Summit
Posted 3/13/19

GREENWOOD TWP—Residents here, on a 27-22 vote, opted to keep the township’s levy at $150,000 for 2020. That vote came despite a recommendation by the town board to boost the township’s tax …

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Grassroots government

Greenwood Township voters back $150,000 levy

Posted

GREENWOOD TWP—Residents here, on a 27-22 vote, opted to keep the township’s levy at $150,000 for 2020. That vote came despite a recommendation by the town board to boost the township’s tax receipts to $250,000 to help fund a 2020 spending plan totaling $325,350.

The township receives about $78,000 in other tax revenues and is likely to draw down its substantial reserves to cover any funding gap. As of year-end 2018, the township had reserves of nearly $700,000.

Township Chair Mike Ralston and Treasurer Pam Rodgers made this year’s budget presentation. Greenwood spending has fallen from $517,616 in 2016 to $314,433 in 2018. The change is mostly due to the elimination of the full-time maintenance position, assessor, and local planning and zoning.

Ralston and Rodgers noted that the proposed budget for 2019, which was set at $297,300, will most likely be about $58,000 higher, based on actual spending from 2018. While the budget for general government was mostly on track, the township saw increased spending in the fire department, including $14,000 for turnout gear for new members and new department radios, and $11,500 in general expenses. The budget adjustments also included an additional $15,000 in attorney fees, attributed to claims brought against the township by fire department member Jeff Maus.

“We are budgeting two years in advance,” Rodgers noted. “And the money we are raising now, we don’t see for two years.”

Rodgers said the Minnesota Association of Townships recommends that townships hold one-and-a-half to two times their annual spending in reserve.

“I would like us to stay at the one-and-a-half mark,” she said.

The town board proposed levy of $250,000 would leave the township with an estimated $575,000 at the end of 2020. They noted that a stable levy at $250,000 over the next four years would keep the township’s fund balance at that one-and-a-half mark.

The township’s fund balance was at $529,449 in 2009, reached a high of $1,356,052 in 2014, and has been steadily falling since as residents have limited the levy in recent years.

Rodgers said the township taxes paid in Greenwood are significantly lower than taxes paid on a similar property in Beatty, Breitung, or Tower. Greenwood’s market value, estimated at over $470 million in 2016, is over twice as high as that in Beatty or Breitung, and dwarfs the market value in Tower, which was $26 million in 2016.

At the close of the budget presentation, Lee Peterson immediately placed a motion on the floor to set the levy at $150,000.

Several in the audience spoke in favor of keeping township reserves closer to one-times the township budget, instead of one-and-a-half.

Supervisor Carmen DeLuca said he would like to see the levy set at $200,000.

Mike Indihar, who was serving as the meeting’s moderator, noted that the $150,000 levy would leave $475,000 at the end of 2020, rather than $575,000.

Marilyn Mueller asked why the township had spent an excessive amount on legal fees for the matter with Jeff Maus, which could have been settled for $380 if the town board followed the advice of the township attorney.

Rodgers noted that the Department of Labor and Industry had ruled in favor of the township in that matter.

Jeff Maus noted that a township such as Breitung, which maintains plow trucks and other heavy equipment, along with a water and sewer system, might need to have reserves as high as one-and-a-half or two times their spending.

“All we have are these buildings and our fire apparatus,” Maus said.

Lee Peterson added ,“We are well positioned not to have a catastrophe here.”

Others noted that the township carries insurance on its building and equipment.

Residents voted, via paper ballot, and the $150,000 levy passed 27-22.

Township election

The two incumbents each retained their seat in the township election. Supervisor Carmen DeLuca outpolled challenger John Bassing 169-134. Treasurer Pam Rodgers received 167 votes to Carol Maus’s total of 136.

Other business

In other business at the annual meeting, residents:

 Advised the town board to donate $500 to the Tower Cemetery. Pam Lundstrom noted that Tower and Breitung are both donating $2,500 this year, and Kugler Township is donating $250. She noted that many former township residents are buried in Tower.

 Advised that township officials attend all the MAT trainings that are available.

 Discussed whether or not the town board should move public input on the monthly township meeting agenda back to the beginning of the agenda, so that residents have a chance to comment on issues before votes are taken. A voice vote taken on the question showed slightly more support in favor.

 Discussed whether or not a well is needed by the recreation area. The cost of the project is uncertain. Gene Baland, from the recreation committee, noted the well would provide water for irrigating the sod, as well as flooding the skating rink. The town board will investigate the actual cost of putting in an irrigation well.

 Discussed but took no action on increasing the per capita subsidy paid to the Tower Ambulance. Several questioned why the ambulance service had not sent updated information, since the latest request is different from the initial presentation given by Ambulance Director Steve Altenburg. A hand count vote showed 25 in favor and 20 against approving the increase at this time. Those who spoke against said they were looking for more information on the ambulance department financials, the costs of the paid on-call program and housing, and the future prospects for transfer runs, since the Virginia ambulance was intending to increase its ability to do transfer calls.

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Shaking my head

So disappointed with the low voter turnout, not the election results I expected, or hoped for. Treasurer Rodgers does need to stop parroting how low our taxes are compared to other townships and cities! We do not provide: police, sewer and water, plowing, or road maintenance. We have a fire department and some recycling canisters. Hopefully, with the election over, everyone can now relax and the board will begin to treat everyone with respect, regardless of their polulitical leanings. Does MAT have any anti-bullying training?

Thursday, March 14