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Sides spar over Cook County tax levy

Dec 10, 2017 07:27AM ● Published by Editor

By Brady Slater of The Duluth News Tribune on December 9, 2017

Known for its getaway appeal, Cook County is home to a long stretch of the North Shore of Lake Superior and encompasses the northeasternmost tip of Minnesota.
In 2016, it cost $7 million to operate Cook County — making it among a group of rural counties with some of the lower tax levies in the state. By comparison, St. Louis County is proposing to operate on $132 million in 2018.
On Tuesday, Cook County commissioners will vote on setting next year's tax levy at almost $9.5 million — a number that may be just right, to hear the county administrator tell it.
But in the face of the largest percentage tax increase in the state, up nearly 20 percent from 2017, a former one-term county commissioner turned newspaper columnist is leading a tax revolt in Cook County.

Garry Gamble

Garry Gamble

"I was there for four years (on the board) — there was no fiscal discipline, no willingness to say no," said Garry Gamble, who lost his county board reelection bid in 2016 for the District 2 seat representing the area around Grand Marais.

Gamble started a group this year, Citizens for an Affordable Cook County, which he described as having a handful of core members among a broader group of supporters. A Citizens-funded survey saw 840 mailers returned from the more than 2,100 sent to what Gamble called a random sampling of property holders. To Gamble's satisfaction, almost all of the surveys came back critical of the county's proposed levy and spending. To further fuel his revolt, Gamble also writes a weekly column in the Cook County News Herald, in which he regularly criticizes the board and its seemingly by-the-book truth-in-taxation process.

"The Koochiching County commissioners are my heroes," said Gamble, using an example of a neighbor two counties over. "They were us 25 years ago. They had 7 percent increases three years in a row, and their constituents were up in arms. ... Now, they run their county like a business."

While Gamble calls on his supporters using the words, "stand up!" Cook County Administrator Jeff Cadwell is appealing to people to stay calm.

"The only effect of the survey is on increasing unnecessary distress in local government," Cadwell said. "It's not going to have an effect on the commissioners. They understand their responsibility and need to fund programs."

Cadwell blamed previous county boards, which included Gamble from 2013-16, for the county's current predicament.

Past boards deferred payments on $550,000 worth of two new road graders to 2018-19, Cadwell said. The boards also employed other line-item cost savings such as stopping the treatment of roads with calcium chloride — a preventative maintenance practice the county is scheduled to bring back.

Jeff Cadwell

Jeff Cadwell

Additionally, Cadwell said the current levy proposal indicates an attempt to stop raiding the county's fund balance — think: rainy day money set aside in an amount equivalent to about three-fourths of one year's levy. Those savings are a crucial credit-rating marker, Cadwell explained, and commissioners asked him to deliver a budget that went away from using fund-balance spending.

All told, Cadwell said the county has massaged an originally proposed 19.9 percent tax levy increase down to 17.5 percent. The increase amounts to $5 per month on every $100,000 worth of property, he said. After the hit in 2018, Cadwell said Cook County will own a balanced budget and normalize around the 4 percent neighborhood for future tax levy increases beginning in 2019.

Gamble doesn't buy it and calls Cadwell's forecast "disingenuous."

"Smooth sailing from then on means you know exactly what happens in the future," Gamble said. "Our experience tells us the exact opposite."

Said Caldwell in defense of the proposed levy, "Our budget and the demands the state puts on counties to provide things like human services, roads and public transportation is not sustainable when you own a $100,000 property and pay $300 in taxes."
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    01/31/2018
    05:30PM — 07:00PM

    January 17, 24, 31 and February 7th on Wednesdays 5:30-7pm Focus on vacation and travel languag...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    01/31/2018
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for January 4 through February 15. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM ...


  • The 100DayProject

    02/01/2018
    12:00AM — 12:00AM

    January 21 - April 30, 2018 The 100DayProject is an effort to motivate participants to commit ...


  • MOVE IT!

    02/01/2018
    12:00AM

    MOVE IT is about moving towards good health in lots of ways, including being physically active. ...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    02/01/2018
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 5 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • Lunch At the Senior Center

    02/01/2018
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Meatloaf/Baked Potato/Peas/Dessert/Milk


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    02/01/2018
    06:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Film Night at North House

    02/01/2018
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    Winter Series returns every Thursday in February at North House with film nights. We’ll revisit f...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    02/01/2018
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for January 4 through February 15. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM ...


  • The 100DayProject

    02/02/2018
    12:00AM — 12:00AM

    January 21 - April 30, 2018 The 100DayProject is an effort to motivate participants to commit ...


  • MOVE IT!

    02/02/2018
    12:00AM

    MOVE IT is about moving towards good health in lots of ways, including being physically active. ...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    02/02/2018
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 5 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    02/02/2018
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Brats/Sauerkraut/Mash Potato/Dessert/Milk


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    02/02/2018
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Brats/Sauerkraut/Mash Potato/Dessert/Milk


  • Friday Night Reels

    02/02/2018
    06:00PM — 08:00PM

    Friday nights from January 5 to March 9, the library is transformed into a Free-Admission movie t...


  • The 100DayProject

    02/03/2018
    12:00AM — 12:00AM

    January 21 - April 30, 2018 The 100DayProject is an effort to motivate participants to commit ...


  • MOVE IT!

    02/03/2018
    12:00AM

    MOVE IT is about moving towards good health in lots of ways, including being physically active. ...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    02/03/2018
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 5 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • Voyageur Brewing Company Brewery Tour

    02/03/2018
    11:30AM — 12:30PM

    We offer tours on most Saturdays beginning at 11:30am but you need to reserve your space online i...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    02/03/2018
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for January 4 through February 15. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM ...


  • The 100DayProject

    02/04/2018
    12:00AM — 12:00AM

    January 21 - April 30, 2018 The 100DayProject is an effort to motivate participants to commit ...


  • MOVE IT!

    02/04/2018
    12:00AM

    MOVE IT is about moving towards good health in lots of ways, including being physically active. ...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    02/04/2018
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 5 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    02/04/2018
    06:30PM — 07:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • The 100DayProject

    02/05/2018
    12:00AM — 12:00AM

    January 21 - April 30, 2018 The 100DayProject is an effort to motivate participants to commit ...


  • MOVE IT!

    02/05/2018
    12:00AM

    MOVE IT is about moving towards good health in lots of ways, including being physically active. ...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    02/05/2018
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 5 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • Band Instrument Drive

    02/05/2018
    08:00AM

    The Cook County School band is looking to expand our program and include all 5th graders. Current...


  • 1/2 Price Burgers!

    02/05/2018
    11:00AM — 09:00PM

    1/2 Price Burgers at Moguls Grille and Tap Room


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    02/05/2018
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Sloppy Joes/Baked Beans/Coleslaw/Fruit/Milk


  • Overeaters Anonymous

    02/05/2018
    04:15PM — 05:15PM

    Overeaters Anonymous is a fellowship of individuals who, through shared experience, strength and...


  • Co-Dependents Anonymous

    02/05/2018
    05:30PM

    Co-Dependents Anonymous is a Fellowship of men and women whose common purpose is to develop healt...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    02/05/2018
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for January 4 through February 15. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM ...


  • The 100DayProject

    02/06/2018
    12:00AM — 12:00AM

    January 21 - April 30, 2018 The 100DayProject is an effort to motivate participants to commit ...


  • MOVE IT!

    02/06/2018
    12:00AM

    MOVE IT is about moving towards good health in lots of ways, including being physically active. ...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    02/06/2018
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 5 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • Story Time at the Library

    02/06/2018
    10:30AM — 11:15AM

    Every Tuesday, January 9-February 27, story times are open to all ages and feature songs and othe...


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    02/06/2018
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Soup/Sandwich/Dessert/Milk


  • Bible Prophecy

    02/06/2018
    04:00PM — 05:30PM

    National and International speakers presented by DVD. The DVDs will be shown at the Community Ce...


  • Kids Eat Free

    02/06/2018
    04:00PM — 09:00PM

    1 free kids meal with any paid adult meal Available after 4pm


  • Colvill All-Levels Yoga

    02/06/2018
    05:30PM — 06:30PM

    Join us for yoga. Vinyasa-style yoga set to world music. Come rest your mind and energize your ...


  • Men's Yoga at Cobblestone Cabins

    02/06/2018
    05:30PM — 07:00PM

    Iyengar style yoga class for men interested in a well rounded yoga practice.


  • Intro/Beginning Iyengar Yoga at Cobblestone

    02/06/2018
    07:05PM — 08:20PM

    Class suited for introductory or beginning students. The basics of Iyengar style yoga will be tau...


  • Learn to Dance!

    02/06/2018
    07:15PM — 09:00PM

    Learn to waltz, two-step, foxtrot, and swing dance. Tuesdays at the 4-H Building, 7:15 to 9:00 PM...


  • The 100DayProject

    02/07/2018
    12:00AM — 12:00AM

    January 21 - April 30, 2018 The 100DayProject is an effort to motivate participants to commit ...


  • MOVE IT!

    02/07/2018
    12:00AM

    MOVE IT is about moving towards good health in lots of ways, including being physically active. ...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    02/07/2018
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 5 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • Anxiety/Depression Support Group for Women

    02/07/2018
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Weekly support group for women. $2.00 suggested donation. No registration required. Please joi...


  • Gentle Yoga at Cobblestone

    02/07/2018
    10:00AM — 11:30AM

    For all with health concerns such as arthritis, high blood pressure, pregnancy or those who just ...


  • 1/2 Price Bottles of Wine

    02/07/2018
    11:00AM

    1/2 Price Bottles of Wine


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    02/07/2018
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Chef's Salad/Fruit/Dessert/Milk


  • Women's Yoga at Cobblestone Cabins

    02/07/2018
    05:15PM — 07:00PM

    Continuing class for all women interested in Iyengar Yoga. Walk-ins allowed with permission from ...


  • Beginning Spanish

    02/07/2018
    05:30PM — 07:00PM

    January 17, 24, 31, & February 7, 2018 | 5:30PM-7PM START LEARNING SPANISH or HELP REGAIN LOS...


  • Beginning Spanish

    02/07/2018
    05:30PM — 07:00PM

    January 17, 24, 31 and February 7th on Wednesdays 5:30-7pm Focus on vacation and travel languag...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    02/07/2018
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for January 4 through February 15. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM ...


  • The 100DayProject

    02/08/2018
    12:00AM — 12:00AM

    January 21 - April 30, 2018 The 100DayProject is an effort to motivate participants to commit ...


  • MOVE IT!

    02/08/2018
    12:00AM

    MOVE IT is about moving towards good health in lots of ways, including being physically active. ...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    02/08/2018
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 5 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    02/08/2018
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Baked Chicken/Steamed Cabbage/Potato/Fruit/Milk


  • Alcoholics Anonymous

    02/08/2018
    06:30PM

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and ho...


  • Film Night at North House

    02/08/2018
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    Winter Series returns every Thursday in February at North House with film nights. We’ll revisit f...


  • Square Dance Lessons

    02/08/2018
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Modern Western Square Dance Schedule for January 4 through February 15. Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM ...


  • Second annual Hygge Festival

    02/09/2018
    12:00AM — 12:00AM

    In honor of the second annual Hygge Festival Feb. 9-15, participating resort and restaurant owner...


  • The 100DayProject

    02/09/2018
    12:00AM — 12:00AM

    January 21 - April 30, 2018 The 100DayProject is an effort to motivate participants to commit ...


  • MOVE IT!

    02/09/2018
    12:00AM

    MOVE IT is about moving towards good health in lots of ways, including being physically active. ...


  • Terra Bella Floral fall hours

    02/09/2018
    12:00AM

    Monday and Tuesday Noon to 5 Wednesday through Friday 10 to 4 Saturday 10 to 2 Sunday Closed


  • Lunch at the Senior Center

    02/09/2018
    12:00PM — 12:30PM

    Tomato Soup/Grilled Cheese Sandwich/Fruit/Dessert/Milk


  • Friday Night Reels

    02/09/2018
    06:00PM — 08:00PM

    Friday nights from January 5 to March 9, the library is transformed into a Free-Admission movie t...