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Good news on taxes: School district levy decreases, county holds steady

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Lake County property owners may notice a reduction in their next round of property taxes.

Although many factors affect property taxes, the Lake Superior School District and Lake County both kept their budgets at or below last year's numbers--meaning they aren't asking for any more money from taxpayers.

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"Our departments have learned to keep their requests minimal," County Commissioner Brad Jones said at last week's Truth in Taxation meeting, a public meeting during which local government entities release their proposed budgets and take questions from taxpayers. No members of the public were at last Tuesday's county Truth in Taxation meeting.

The county board reviewed budget requests from its various departments, agreed that the budgets were reasonable and no significant cuts were required.

"You really can't eliminate and cut back on a lot of things," County Commissioner Paul Bergman said.

The school district levy will decrease 10 percent , largely due to the completion of a nearly $500,000 sprinkler repair project at William Kelley High School. The levy represents 23 percent of the district's $19 million total annual revenue. A majority of the levy goes toward paying down the district's debt, much of which was incurred during the construction of the new Two Harbors High School on Highway 2. The new school was completed in 2005.

"As far as our fund balance goes, we are at a healthy point. As we look into the future, we still have to be vigilant as far as we spend our money," said Lance Takkunen, business manager for the school district. He said the district has been dipping into some of its savings in the last two years.

"We're in a good position right now, (but) we want to make sure we don't spend our savings down on a year-to-year basis," Takkunen said.

Two Harbors and Silver Bay levies also affect property taxes of residents living within those municipalities. The portion of the levy each taxpayer pays is dependent upon the county's assessment of the owner's property. Property owners who believe their property has been improperly valued have the right to appeal. Call the assessor's office at 834-8310 or visit www.co.lake.mn.us for more information on how to appeal an assessment.

Residents can view the full budgets by stopping by the offices of the government agencies. The school district office is located at Two Harbors High School and the county office is located in the Lake County Courthouse in Two Harbors.

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