Duluth City Council adopts 2.82 percent tax-levy increase for 2013The Duluth City Council narrowly adopted a levy for the coming tax year Monday after hearing a plea for tax relief by David Ross, president and CEO of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
The Duluth City Council narrowly adopted a levy for the coming tax year Monday after hearing a plea for tax relief by David Ross, president and CEO of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce.
Sharla Gardner said this was the first time since being elected to the City Council that she would be voting against a levy increase. The levy will go, in part, to hire additional economic development staff, and Gardner suggested the city has more pressing needs in other departments, such as public works.
But Council President Dan Hartman said the city’s economic development efforts are hamstrung by woefully inadequate staffing levels. He said Duluth had an economic development team with the equivalent of 1.5 staff members. Hartman contrasted that with other similar-sized cities with economic development teams consisting of seven to 10 people.
“One of the easiest ways to drive income is to increase our tax base,” Hartman contended, arguing for the proposed levy.
The levy passed by a 5-4 vote, with Hartman, Jennifer Julsrud, Patrick Boyle, Linda Krug and Emily Larson in the majority. Opposing the levy were Councilors Gardner, Jim Stauber, Jay Fosle and Garry Krause.
The council not only approved a 1.6 percent initial increase proposed by city administration but an additional 1.22 percent bump proposed by Councilors Julsrud and Hartman to beef up Duluth’s economic development efforts. The combined effect will be an increase of 2.82 percent and will yield an increase equivalent to $12.20 for the owner of an average-value $158,500 home in Duluth.
The council first approved a preliminary budget in September, but Monday’s action finalizes the levy. The city will levy about $19.4 million in total property taxes to support its general operations in 2013.
In arguing against the council’s levy increase, Ross said: “We, as the Chamber, are very aware of the need for additional resources to be channeled into the city’s economic development initiative, yet the chamber’s leadership challenges Mayor Ness, his administration and you (the council) to fund this economic development initiative within the city’s proposed budget, with no additional tax increase. So we do not support an increase of $213,000 taxation levy to fund this economic development initiative. We believe the city’s taxation would be counterproductive to the very thing you’re trying to do, which is to expand the economic base of our community.”