State cuts shift burden to local government
What do the Cloquet Area Fire District (CAFD), the city's proposed storm water utility and rising property taxes have in common?
All three are a response, at least in part, to decreasing state funds. As state lawmakers and the governor cut Local Government Aid and other budget items, it didn't mean the items/services those things paid for disappeared, it simply shifted more of the burden of paying for them to local government. Thus, instead of paying for it out of your income tax to the state, you paid more on your property taxes.
The CAFD and the storm water utility also came about as a result of federal and state mandates, unfunded mandates.
Talk of creating the CAFD started after the Federal Balanced Budget Act of 2000, which required all ambulances in the United States to accept Medicare assignment for billing on all Medicare patients. As we all know, Medicare doesn't come close to paying the actual costs of most medical care, let alone an ambulance call to your home. At the same time, the city of Cloquet was looking at a loss of more than $1 million in financial assistance from the state. Other area cities and townships also faced cuts.
Ten years later, the CAFD has been a reality for just under two years and is its own taxing authority. Yes, it costs homeowners a little more, but Cloquet, in particular, can't get along without a professional firefighting force. The industries that make their home here require quick responses by well-trained firefighters. Those who require the services of the trained paramedics staffing the CAFD ambulances also want timely and well-trained responses to their calls.
We have that, and our firefighters - both full-time and paid-on-call - also have access to better and more consistent training as a result.
Like the CAFD, the new storm water utility will have its own funds to spend on its own needs. Actions needed to clean up storm water before it pollutes our river and, ultimately, Lake Superior, won't be delayed because we got so much snow that the city went over its budget and had to find money somewhere else.
Nor will we face fines from the EPA or the MPCA or some other government agency because we lacked the funds to get the job done.
Besides, isn't it worth $4 a month on a residential water bill to continue the process of cleaning up our beautiful rivers, streams, creeks and lakes? And shouldn't places with enormous parking lots have to pay some extra costs for the environmental consequences of those acres of asphalt?