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Park Rapids Mayor Nancy Carroll tells reporters Wednesday that continued cuts in Local Government Aid paid to cities will force up property taxes. She is president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities. Pioneer Photo/Don Davis

Leaders of cities say property taxes, LGA linked

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ST. PAUL -- Eight city officials praising Gov. Mark Dayton for efforts to preserve state aid to cities said they would not raise property taxes if the aid continues.

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The officials told Capitol reporters Wednesday that the Democratic governor's budget proposal would save residents money. They said they could not say if leaders of other cities would forgo property tax increases if state aid payments were stable.

"We would like some certainty when it comes to LGA," Finance Director Marshall Hallock of Red Wing said about Local Government Aid that supplements many cities' budgets.

Park Rapids Mayor Nancy Carroll, president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, said the only reason her city has raised property taxes in recent years is to make up for state aid cuts, so if LGA is not cut again Park Rapids' taxes should not rise.

Dayton's budget would preserve LGA and other local aids at amounts cities expect. However, Republicans who control the Legislature would reduce the aid below projections, although their budget will not be produced until next month.

Mayors have come to the Capitol for years asking that their aid be saved, although many Republicans say cities can do a better job with their budgets.

"We believe that rural Republicans, whose communities rely on LGA to stay strong and competitive, will be able to work with Gov. Dayton and their leadership to forge a budget agreement to protect property taxpayers and cities across the state," added Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren.

Minnesota property taxes have increased 68 percent since 2002, Ahlgren said.

Bonding heard

Road, flood project and civic center backers told the House Capitol Investment Committee Wednesday that they need money Gov. Mark Dayton proposes in his public works budget.

"Our roads are rough, aged and falling apart," Clay County Engineer David Overbo told the committee.

The roads are deteriorating in part because the county is a large sugar beet producer and nearby rock quarries, he said. He said there are no funds available for more than 50 miles of "regionally significant roads."

Overbo and Marshall County Engineer Lon Aune testified on behalf of including county road money in the public works bill, which the state would fund by selling bonds.

Aune used an Oslo-area road as an example of his county's needs. It often is flooded, which forces people to take a boat to cars parked on the other side of the flooded land or drive 70 miles around the water, he said.

Former Rep. Kevin Goodno, a Moorhead lobbyist, urged the committee to approve $12 million to finish a $50 million home-removal project to "allow for faster, more efficient and less costly response" during floods.

Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said Moorhead and adjoining Oakport Township are much better protected against floods than two years ago, due in part to state bonding funds.

The committee also heard pleas to fund several civic centers and other projects, but no decision on the so-called bonding bill is expected for some time. Republicans in control of the Legislature say they do not want a bonding bill this year other than for emergencies such as floods.

Quick approval

Larry Shellito earned quick approval Wednesday as state veterans' affairs commissioner by a Senate committee.

Shellito, recently retired as head of the state National Guard, will be considered for confirmation by the full Senate, but no date has been set.

The Army general is a Minnesota State University-Moorhead graduate and former Alexandria Technical College graduate.

The committee hearing was brief and a voice vote supporting Shellito was unanimous.

CPR bill advances

A bill requiring cardiopulmonary resuscitation training for teachers and assistant teachers has passed through House and Senate committees.

"Hannah's Law" is named after Hannah Kozitza, who died after choking on a grape while at a day-care facility last summer.

"Hannah went to day care and never came home," said Ron Edlund, Hannah's grandfather. "We need to know that the people taking care of our children and grandchildren are able to respond to these situations."

Now, state law requires just one CPR-trained staff member to be in a child-care facility. The bill, which faces another Senate committee and heads directly to the full House, requires all teachers and assistant teachers to be trained.

Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.

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