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International Falls council proposes 14-percent levy increase

By Laurel Beager
International Falls city property owners will have the chance in December to weigh in on a proposal to collect from them nearly 14 percent more in taxes in 2022 to pay for city operations and services.

The Falls City Council Monday set the preliminary 2022 tax levy at $3.39 million – a 13.9 percent increase in the amount collected by the 2021 levy – to support the 2022 city budget.

A public hearing on the preliminary levy and budget is scheduled for 6 p.m. Dec. 6, when the public can join the council to discuss the amount of money generated by the tax levy collected from city property owners, and how the council plans to spend that tax money in 2022.

City Administrator Betty Bergstrom reminded the council that after the set the preliminary levy, and consider public input, they may reduce the levy, but not increase it. The council is scheduled to adopt the final levy and budget at its Dec. 20 council meeting.

Mayor Harley Droba reminded property taxpayers that the Dec. 6 meeting is about the city’s levy and budget and is not the time to discuss individual property taxes and increases and decreases in property value. Meetings to discuss individual property taxes are scheduled in June with the county board of equalization.

Droba said already, the council and staff have made deep cuts throughout the city in order to keep the increase in property taxes as small as possible. Earlier conversations by the council considered a 26-percent levy increase in 2022 above 2021 collection, he said.

Falls Council highlights from Sept. 17 meeting:

The council referred a recommendation back to the Planning Commission for further investigation. The commission recommended on a 3-1 vote approval of a conditional use permit requested by Northland Counseling that would place an existing group home service in a new location.

A neighbor adjacent to the proposed new site of the grpu home at 122 Park Avenue, told the council the process to ensure the new use of the residence was appropriate was flawed, adding just four of nine commission members were present at the commission’s hearing on the request.

She said decisions about the request should have tabled until proper research was done about the effect to property values, and concern about clients living there, should the permit be approved. She also urged the city to consider restrictions on where certain offenders can live in the community.

The council heard the second and final reading of an ordinance amending the charter, to allow the city to bond for projects and fix problems as they arise, rather than waiting until all of the funding has been saved up to finance a project.

Fire Department report
August activity: 6 city responses: two residential structure fires, two commercial fire alarms, two gas leaks, 3 carbon monoxide alarm checks.

Ambulance Service report
August activity: 90 calls via 911, compared to 78 in August 2020; 63 facility transfers, compared to 46 in August, 2020.

Published in International Falls News

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