By TERRY L. SLUSS
I read the Open Forum article headed "Double Taxation" submitted by Brainerd Alderman at Large Bob Olson in the Dec. 28 issue of The Brainerd Dispatch with mixed feelings.
I was pleased to see that the alderman has taken some time to research the positive economic impact that the Brainerd/Crow Wing County Airport has on many aspects of our community.
The alderman is also correct in his statement that Crow Wing County and the city of Brainerd levy 50 percent of the annual airport operation funding for this airport. He is incorrect in his statement that, "The bonds for the runway will have the same formula. The Brainerd citizens will pay 50 percent of paying the bonds off for Brainerd's share. But they will also be taxed on Crow Wing County's 50 percent of the bond levy." The airport expansion in the early 1980s was funded by general obligation bonds, which specifically exempted the citizens of Brainerd from double taxation. The general obligation bonding for the proposed project also excludes double taxation for the citizens of Brainerd. When sending out tax statements, the county auditor adjusts the statements for all residents of the city of Brainerd so that they are taxed only for their fair share. The current expansion is presently in the public hearing stage and will be proposed to both the Brainerd city council and Crow Wing County sometime in January.
The original agreement for an airport goes all the way back to approximately 1946. In 1979 an airport expansion was approved between the city of Brainerd and Crow Wing County. Minor modifications to that document have been made over the years, most recently in 1991, but annual operation funding as well as airport commission membership by both the city and county have remained in effect since that time at 50/50 as both parties have agreed. The city and county share authority over the operations of the airport 50/50. The city and county share the multi-millions of dollars in assets of the airport 50/50.
At the Crow Wing County board meeting on Dec. 11, 2001, by unanimous agreement of all commissioners, a task force consisting of the county administrator, the county auditor and the county commissioner serving on the airport commission were directed to meet with members of the city of Brainerd in response to a request made by the Brainerd city administrator on behalf of the Alderman, to discuss any and all aspects of previous agreements.
The statement in the Alderman's Open Forum letter "commissioners...who represent the citizens of Brainerd did not support the Brainerd city council's unanimous motion to exclude the citizens of Brainerd from this double taxation on the airport," is absolutely false.
The Crow Wing County Board has had a close working relationship with the city of Brainerd and its council for several years because we realize the importance of working together and resolving problems at the lowest level possible before such issues grow and fester. The county board has responded to all requests from the Brainerd city council, and will continue to do so in the future.
I represent the interests of the citizens of Brainerd and Baxter on county wide issues. This sometimes finds me in conflict with an individual council member or members over issues upon which we may disagree. That is a healthy process in representative democracy. My loyalty is to the good of the public. Upon this value, I stand firm!
I hope that the alderman will re-check his facts in the general obligation funding area, recognize that the county board did respond to his request, contact his city administrator to receive information requesting a meeting, seek an appointment from the council to represent them on this issue should he and they choose to do so, and find the courage to retract his statement.
(Sluss, a Crow Wing County commissioner, represents District 3.)
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