Our view: St. Louis County caught doing some things right
Say what you will about the St. Louis County Board -- and there has been much to grumble about in recent years, from sexual harassment by some of the County Board's elected members to a commissioner's vow to support slavery to seemingly obvious a...
Say what you will about the St. Louis County Board -- and there has been much to grumble about in recent years, from sexual harassment by some of the County Board's elected members to a commissioner's vow to support slavery to seemingly obvious acts of good-ol'-boy cronyism to revelations commissioners can travel pretty much at will, racking up expenses paid for by us taxpayers, with virtually no oversight.
But those same elected commissioners also know how to hold the line on taxes. For three years, according to Commissioner Dennis Fink of Duluth, the county portion of property taxes has gone down. And this month, commissioners voted for a preliminary 0.6 percent increase that could drop lower before final passage of the levy in December. By law it can no longer go higher than a
0.6 percent increase.
"We're doing less with less," Iron Range Commissioner Steve Raukar said. Many taxpayers wish more government bodies would.
Commissioners actually discussed a 0 percent increase for 2011, but few taxpayers will knock them for their slight-but-still-
*easonable bump. That small increase offers a little leeway, which almost certainly will be needed, considering St. Paul's budget woes and the almost certainty of additional cuts in state aid.
As the News Tribune's John Myers reported, county budget crunchers already are looking for $2 million in cuts from last year's budget due to state aid reductions, declining interest income on cash reserves, and sluggish revenue from the sale of timber and county real estate.
Helping the county's bottom line has been its shift away from assisted living and its move to turn nursing homes over to private management. While those actions may spark debate about the quality of care for some of the county's most vulnerable residents, there's no doubt hard decisions were made, and had to be made.
Speaking of decisions -- and as long as we're giving the county this big
in-writing hug -- last month, St. Louis County officials said they decided to return a pair of historic lampposts taken from in front of the former downtown Duluth county jail before the sale of the 1923 jail.
"The most appropriate places for the lampposts are their original perches," we opined in mid-July, an opinion argued also by the Duluth Heritage Preservation Commission. The county agreed. Then did the right thing.