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On death and taxes

When Mike Roemhildt opened his 2018 property tax estimate Saturday, the Cloquet man said he "nearly went into shock" at what amounted to a 10 percent increase.

Roemhildt wasn't alone. Many Cloquet residents saw a bigger-than-usual jump in this year's taxes, because the county assessor's office went through and updated the assessed value of each property in the summer of 2016; however, the changes were only implemented for taxes payable in 2018.

Still, not every property owner got sticker shock from next year's tax estimate. Some Carlton County taxpayers actually saw a decrease, either because the value of their property decreased or their tax levy went down.

"There are many possible reasons for property taxes to increase. The most common is the local jurisdictions have proposed an increase in the amount of taxes they intend to collect for 2018," said Carlton County Auditor Paul Gassert. "It is possible that increases on property values may cause some increase in taxes but there are areas (in Carlton County) where the value increased and the proposed taxes decreased."

Gassert said Esko (Thomson Township) saw a dramatic decrease in the school portion of its taxes for 2018, possibly for bonds that were paid off. Even though some residents had an increase in property value, the decrease of the school taxes could keep individual property taxes the same or lower for 2018, he said.

On the other hand, every taxing entity on the Cloquet property tax returns — Carlton County, city of Cloquet, Cloquet schools and the Cloquet Area Fire District — increased its estimated tax levy in September, although levy amounts won't be finalized until each entity's Truth and Taxation public meeting in December.

Only cities with at least 500 residents are required to have meetings. For example, Cloquet is required to have a public meeting, but Cromwell is not.

Citizens are encouraged to voice their opinions to the various boards and representatives if they are displeased with the spending by the governmental body and appeal the levy amount.

"This is the final time for residents to have their voices heard," Carlton County Assessor Kyle Holmes said. He stressed, however, that the December meetings are not the time to appeal for changing the value of a home, only for local government spending.

Residents can find meeting information on their proposed tax statement. Carlton County holds its public meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12, at the Carlton County Transportation Building (1630 County Road 61, Carlton).

Call the auditor's office at 218-384-9127 for more information. Questions about valuation changes are addressed at spring local board of appeal and equalization meetings or by contacting the assessor's office directly.

Commissioners approve changing burial policy

What happens if a family cannot pay for a loved one's burial? Carlton County Public Health and Human Services is making changes to its current policy concerning residents who cannot afford to pay for a burial. Under the new proposal, the county will pay for cremation only and no funeral service. If the family is opposed to cremation, the county will pay for a traditional burial including a graveside service.

At their regular meeting Monday afternoon, Carlton County Commissioners approved the rate change.

The payment rate for a cremation will increase to $1,500, up from $1,000. Payments have stayed the same since 2005 in spite of rising costs for funeral homes. A traditional burial payment rate will increase $560 to $2,400. According to the Public Health and Human Services, the policy changes will bring payments more in line with current costs for funerals.

"The county has paid for 16 ½ funerals a year on average for the last 10 years," said Patti Hart, financial assistant supervisor .

She added there is a good possibility the average could increase in the coming years with the aging population.

In other news, the Restorative Justice Program recently won a coveted award from the state. The President's Award is given to programs, resources or facilities working in the field of corrections and criminal justice that demonstrate creativity, resourcefulness, effectiveness and innovation.