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Residents, board fight back on fire district taxes

Thomson Township residents and its board of supervisors are still unhappy with the proposed tax increase levied by the Cloquet Area Fire District.

After attending the truth-in-taxation public hearing and the monthly CAFD board meeting earlier this month, township board members shared their feelings of frustration with the public and searched for solutions at their meeting.

Supervisors Anthony Compo and Jason Paulson told the board about their experience at the CAFD board meeting on Dec. 15, where they brought up the township’s concerns, not only with a massive proposed levy increase but the legality of the levy.

Attorney Bill Helwig stood in for the township attorney Dave Pritchett and explained concerns with the way the levy was calculated. Helwig said, according to state statute, CAFD cannot levy more than its actual expenses, they must tax all participants equally, and if they tax participants differently they must provide a formula used to explain why, which must be approved by all participants.

Supervisors expressed concern that CAFD might potentially be taking advice from accountants instead of attorneys. They were advised that Thomson Township is a participating party that has not approved of the formula used to calculate the new tax, therefore they can not be taxed. The board discussed notifying the County Auditor so that CAFD could prove its actual expenses. If the proposed increase is enough to cover their actual expenses, and not to build a profit, the township would have to agree to the increase.

During discussions about the importance of having township representatives at all CAFD meetings, the board decided to re-appoint Jason Paulson to represent the township on the CAFD board, after he resigned from the board in November. Paulson will return to the board in January with Compo as the alternate representative.

Township chairman Terry Hill, Compo, Pritchett and township clerk Rhonda Peleski attended the CAFD finance meeting on Monday, Dec. 2 to represent the township. Hill said he asked the CAFD board members to hold the line on the ambulance levy increase to the previous level until they can answer more of the questions about the proposed changes.

“It was a good meeting,” Hill said, still worried about what the CAFD board will choose to do at its Dec. 22 meeting.

In other business, the board is exploring projects that could help satisfy residents’ wants that were outlined in the new comprehensive plan for the township.

First, the board gave approval for Fire Chief Kyle Gustafson to talk to architects about a potential expansion of the firehall. With federal infrastructure grants floating around, the board and Gustafson felt that now would be a good time to figure out what an expansion would look like and cost.

Second, the board wants to discuss the public’s concerns about water in the township and explore options of municipal water. With water being an issue discussed by the Esko school board as well, both entities decided it would be good to begin joint discussion. The board scheduled a work session for Jan. 13 to go over and come up with goals for both of these issues.

The Thomson Township board meets on the first and third Thursday of the month.

See Page 7 for latest on the CAFD tax proposal.