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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely City Council gets input on taxes

Catie Clark
Posted 12/7/22

ELY - The Ely City Council heard a wide range of feedback from local residents during the annual Truth-in-Taxation hearing Tuesday night. Certain taxing entities in Minnesota, including …

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Ely City Council gets input on taxes

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ELY - The Ely City Council heard a wide range of feedback from local residents during the annual Truth-in-Taxation hearing Tuesday night. Certain taxing entities in Minnesota, including municipalities of more than 500, must hold the hearing each year once residents have received their estimated property tax statements for the upcoming year.
Two Ely residents testified at this year’s hearing. City Clerk-Treasurer Harold Langowski offered an explanation for the sticker shock being experienced by many Ely residents during a 30-minute presentation on the budget presented as part of the hearing. The Timberjay covered those reasons in detail in the Sept. 16 issue of the Timberjay, available online to our subscribers.
“I’m not here to protest taxes,” said Jeffrey Wilfahrt. Instead, Wilfahrt was concerned about the use of those tax dollars. “I just hope that some of that (money) goes into law enforcement because people don’t seem to understand the term speed limit,” he said.
Wilfahrt also suggested street improvements would be appreciated, particularly in his neighborhood. “Fifteenth (Avenue) has no curb. There is water standing in front of my home and the home across the street from me.” Langowski replied that street improvements for that portion of 15th were currently projected for 2025.
Diana Mavetz Petrich was there to complain about her anticipated tax increase. “I got my tax statement and it’s gone up 48.1 percent,” she said. “That’s a lot of money on the side. Look, there’s a lot of old people here yet tonight and I know a lot of young families that are struggling to stay afloat, and (I) just worry that it’s gonna get to be too much for everybody at this point.” Petrich was worried as well about some businesses in the community. “Just one more thing,” she said. “Even businesses in town are struggling and these poor people in the restaurant business, I don’t know how they’re doing it.”
Both Mayor Roger Skraba and Langowski responded about how projected but unrealized business taxes from short-term rentals were one of the contributing factors to higher property taxes this year. They also discussed how they hoped that next year’s levy fiscal disparities process would level out taxes between commercial and residential properties.
Petrich also asked the currently unanswerable question regarding Minnesota’s budget surplus and how that might contribute to tax relief: “What about the windfall that is sitting in the coffers of the state of Minnesota, $9 billion or $10 billion.”
“It’s $17.6 billion,” interjected Skraba.
“Oh. Okay,” Petrich continued, somewhat surprised. “Is that going to ever get sent out or refunded or whatever?”
Langowski said it’s up to the Legislature to tackle that issue: “I pointed out in the presentation, a big part is that (the) local government aid formula has not been adjusted since (the) 2000s. “That’s where the legislature has to do some work and fix that formula so that the burden isn’t always increasing on the property taxes,” Langowski added. “And you’re exactly correct, when there’s a surplus, you’d think there’d be easier ways to get that (money) back to the people.”

New business
The council approved six pieces of new business, two of which were additions to the published agenda. The first four items were routine approvals of all the 2023 tobacco licenses, the designation of the 2023 polling precinct location, a liability insurance coverage non-waiver resolution to limit the city’s risk and the service contact for Walker, Giroux & Hahne for the audit of the city’s finances.

Other business
In other business, the council:
• Voted to donate the historic 1979 American LaFrance fire truck to the Ely Clown Band for use at community events.
Heard from Langowski that the city’s ice rink will open on Thursday, Dec. 8. Hours will be 3 - 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon - 8 p.m. on Saturday and 1 - 6 p.m. on Sundays. There will also be extended hours over the winter holidays.
• Approved 2023 tobacco licenses for city retailers.
• Designated the 2023 polling location for the city.
• Approved a new service contract with Walker Giroux & Hahne for the audit of the city’s finances.
• On the Ely Utilities Commission’s recommendation approved payments of $161,075 for water treatment plant control system improvements, $888,198 for EUC October bills, $978,870 to Rice Lake Construction for new filters, and $2,975 to Anthony Gornik for the installation of 57 LCR units.
• Approved the purchase of the old maple logs currently at the old city dump by Bob Koschak for $365. Mayor Skraba gave a little cheer at the news that Koschak will haul the logs off city property.
• Approved the second reading of two zoning amendments. It also voted to approve a purchase agreement between the city and Mark Wilson for the purchase of Lot 8, Block 4 East Spaulding for $15,000.
• Approved the first reading of ordinance 366 for the zoning amendment of the Recreational Center parcels on the south side of Miners Lake from Industrial to C1. They also scheduled a public hearing for the ordinance, currently scheduled on Dec. 20 at 5:15 p.m.
Appointed A.Z. Eck to the city’s tree board and John Lahtonen and Margie Olson to the Housing Redevelopment Authority.

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