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Minnesota communities brace for LGA updates

Gov. Tim Pawlenty's budget proposal includes a measure that would restrict property tax increases in 87 Minnesota cities, including Crookston, East Grand Forks, Thief River Falls, Roseau and Bemidji - cities that receive more than one-third of th...

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Gov. Tim Pawlenty's budget proposal includes a measure that would restrict property tax increases in 87 Minnesota cities, including Crookston, East Grand Forks, Thief River Falls, Roseau and Bemidji - cities that receive more than one-third of their local budgets from the state.

While city officials have seen no specifics of the proposal, there is concern over its potential effects.

"It's just a first draft, and there's a lot of work to be done before it's all settled, but it's frustrating," Betty Arvidson, Crookston clerk-treasurer, said Tuesday.

Crookston is scheduled to receive about $3 million this year through Minnesota's Local Government Aid program.

"That's just getting us back to the level we were at in 2003, when the state cut LGA to balance its budget," she said. "That was never fully restored."

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Crookston, like other rural cities, was forced to cut budgets or raise taxes to make up the difference. In spite of the shortfall, Crookston managed to reduce its local tax levy by 3 percent in 2006 and keep it level for 2007, according to Arvidson.

"It's affected us in ways that has made us better. We've had to try to do things more effectively, to be more efficient," she said.

"As a city, as a council and department heads, I think we've done our jobs to keep our taxes down," she added. "But when you get these blanket decisions, it's like punishing us for doing a good job."

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