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Cloquet Area Fire District Board certifies 15.7% levy increase for 2023

The total levy for the district is $3,638,158, which is a 15.7% increase from the 2022 levy, which totaled $3,143,425.

Cloquet Area Fire District headquarters
Cloquet Area Fire District Headquarters.
Jamey Malcomb / 2020 file / Pine Journal
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CLOQUET — The Cloquet Area Fire District Board approved a 15.7% tax levy increase and its budget for 2023 during a meeting Wednesday, Dec. 21.

The total levy for the district is $3,638,158 — a 15.7% increase from the 2022 levy, which totaled $3,143,425.

However, the levy certified was 3.2% lower than the preliminary levy the board adopted in September.

In September, CAFD Chief Jesse Buhs said the increase to the district's budget was due various increases including staffing, inflation and insurance. District expenses rose by 11.23%, from $5,386,792 to $5,991,627 — an increase of $604,835.

According to district documents, $2,659,712 of the tax levy is made up from residents receiving fire services, with $860,440 coming from the ambulance-only portion of the district. An ambulance bond also makes up $118,000 of the levy.

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Buhs said the levy was calculated using the recommended split between fire and ambulance costs Fitch & Associates, a financial consultant, made to the district.

The breakdown of costs accepted by the board is 40.3% of costs for fire services and 59.7% of costs for ambulance services.

According to the presentation by the consultant in June, per year, district staff spends 4% of its time on fire calls and 14% of its time on ambulance calls, leaving 82% of the time waiting for a call. The consultant explained that since the staff are both firefighters and paramedics, the time spent not on a call would be split evenly.

Costs of something that is solely for one of the services, for example an ambulance, would not be split between the services.

The impact the levy will have on homeowners whose home is valued at $200,000 is dependent on if the home receives both services or just ambulance services.

Property owners whose home is valued at $200,000 and who receive both services will see their taxes increase by $28 to $465. That's up from $437 the previous year.

A homeowner with the same home value that only receives ambulance service will see their taxes rise by $45 to $90. That's up from $45 the previous year.

Buhs reminded the board that this is a full increase, unlike the phased increase that was proposed in 2021.

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In other district news, Buhs said he will meet with U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Hermantown, along with Cloquet City Administrator Tim Peterson next year to further the discussion on fire district funding sources.

"My efforts are going to be centered around highlighting some of the challenges special taxing districts face," he said.

The district also submitted a $10 million bonding request for facilities in 2023.

"There is talk about bonding bills since nothing was accomplished in 2022," he said.

MORE FROM DYLAN SHERMAN:
The city of Carlton held a meeting to start the discussion on changes to the Carlton Ambulance Service and possibly increasing funding from the municipalities it serves.

Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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