GREENWOOD TWP— In recent years, you could depend on a Greenwood annual meeting to last for hours and feature no shortage of fireworks. But at this year's township gathering, held Tuesday, …
GREENWOOD TWP— In recent years, you could depend on a Greenwood annual meeting to last for hours and feature no shortage of fireworks. But at this year's township gathering, held Tuesday, proceedings were short and surprisingly sweet as a little over 50 residents easily found common ground on issues and unanimously approved a 2018 tax levy of $150,000.
This follows the $1 levy set for 2017, which means Greenwood will receive basically no property tax revenue this year, and instead fund township operations out of the township’s substantial reserves.
Mike Olson was elected moderator on a unanimous voice vote. Having never served in this position, he asked the crowd of about 50 to “bear with me,” but then proceeded to run the meeting smoothly.
The township ended the year 2016 with total cash and investments totaling $1,017,084, almost evenly split between cash reserves of $513,129 and investments of $503,955. About $90,000 of the township’s reserves are in dedicated funds.
Township reserves had grown from $417,579 in 2006 to a high of $1,356,052 in 2015. Pressure from residents at the previous annual meetings brought steep reductions in the tax levy, from $477,689 in 2014 to $150,00 in 2015, $100,000 in 2016, and a single dollar in 2017.
Town Chair John Bassing presented an overview of the 2018 budget and levy request. He noted that with the adopted budget of $340,122 for 2018, the township would need a levy higher than $1 to keep township reserves at a practical level.
Actual township spending in 2016 was $426,333 in 2016, and projected spending in 2017 is set at $361,384, so the adopted budget for 2018 is continuing to show decreased spending, mostly due to the elimination of township planning and zoning and reduced spending in the fire department. The major increase in the 2018 budget was $19,000 added to the building fund, to pay for exterior painting and siding on township buildings.
The only question relating to the proposed budget/levy came from Mo Fontana, who asked the township to consider increasing its annual donation to the Cook Library. She noted that other area townships were donating between $500 and $2,000 a year to the library. Greenwood, it was noted, had been donating $50 to $100 per year.
Current Greenwood Treasurer Delores Clark said such donations were considered a “gray area” for township budgets, and that recommendations were to keep such donations small so not to raise “red flags.”
Pam Rodgers, who was voted in to replace the retiring Clark, agreed with Clark.
“Taxpayers are not paying taxes to have it donated to organizations they may not choose,” she said.
Resident Mary Richard noted that Greenwood made similar donations to several other events and area organizations, like the Heiam Foundation, Tower Fourth of July, and St. Louis County Fair. The township has budgeted $1,000 for donations to civic organizations in 2018, and spent $900 in donations this last year.
Fontana then asked more township residents to consider donating to the Cook Library, which relies on private donations as well as city funding.
Bassing returned to the budget discussion, and reviewed a handout which showed how the calculation for the levy amount had been made, based on current township reserves of $988,200 at the end of January, and estimated revenues for 2017. This includes $45,398 in taconite production tax, $23,000 in public safety revenue, $21,347 in state payment in lieu of taxes, $9,962 in town aids, and $3,327 in federal PILT for a total of $103,035 non-property tax revenue. He noted the township budget showed spending of $331,268 between now and December, plus payments of $44,000 for errors and omissions settlements (lawsuit payouts). This will leave the township with estimated reserves of $715,967 at the end of this year.
With a budget of $340,122 for 2018, and levy request of $150,000, this would leave the township with an estimated reserve of $628,880 at the end of 2018.
Bassing said townships are recommended to keep between one and two years of budget spending in reserves, if possible.
Residents approved the levy request for $150,000 with a unanimous voice vote.
Bassing noted that Greenwood has the highest tax capacity of any governmental unit in the county (at approximately $470 million) except for Duluth, Hermantown, and Hibbing.
Playground project receives mixed support
The only area of disagreement at the meeting was over the installation of playground equipment near the new pavilion. Greenwood Recreation Committee member Jarri Ankrum first recognized and thanked members of the committee, which raised funds and recruited volunteer labor for the new pavilion, which is valued at $150,000. The project also received grant funding from the IRRRB and Lake Country Power’s Operation Roundup program.
“We would like to build a replacement play area that is long-lasting and durable,” she said, “at no cost to the township.” She noted they had consulted with a local attorney on the issue of liability, who told them that the playground would be covered under the township’s existing insurance policy.
“Our goal is to build towards a positive and caring township,” she said. “People have been generous with their donations and time.”
Kate Bassing expressed concerns over any additional liability for the township.
Mary Richard once again expressed her disappointment that the township fire department was unwilling to get the skating rink ice in place this winter, while they were able to water the township grass during the summer.
Meeting moderator Mike Olson noted this was something the town board should deal with later next fall.
Jet Galonski expressed his support for the project, and said the plans for the playground look really fun.
While there are not huge numbers of young children living in the township, it was noted that many residents have grandchildren or other relatives and friends who often visit and would use the playground.
A vote on a motion to support the playground effort was done using paper ballots. The motion passed 31 to 19. The issue will now go to the town board, which had previously deferred making any decision on the project.
Paul Skubic recived 236 votes for Supervisor 1 seat, and Mike Rahlston received 232 votes for the Supervsior 2 seat. In the contested Supervisor 3 seat (one-year term), Larry Tahija had 123 votes to narrowly defeat second place finisher JoAnn Bassing, who had 114 votes. Jeff Maus trailed with 22. Pam Rodgers received 226 votes for treasurer.
Once again, a motion was made to appoint The Timberjay as Greenwood’s official paper. The motion was passed with a unanimous voice vote, accompanied by applause. The last two years the town board has voted to appoint The Tower News as official paper, even after residents voted to have the Timberjay at the annual meeting. This decision will be made by the town board at their reorganization meeting on Thursday, March 23.
Pam Lundstrom appealed to township residents to support the fundraising efforts for the Tower-Soudan Fourth of July. Upcoming fundraisers include a chili and soup feed, with polka music by Art Lehtonen and bingo, at the Tower Civic Center on Sunday, March 19 starting at 11 a.m. In April, there will be an adult dance on Saturday, April 15 at the Tower Civic Center, with the Christopher David Hanson band playing from 8 p.m. to midnight. In May, there will be a spaghetti dinner fundraiser at Greenwood Town Hall. She noted the committee had raised about 20 perent of the $14,000 needed to put on the parade and associated events.