County-wide lodging tax
The Lake County Board of Commissioners have been pursuing the implementation of a countywide 4% lodging tax. The proposed 4% tax would be dedicated in two ways: 3% would go to funding countywide marketing campaigns, while 1% would go back directly to the communities to fund festivals and events.
Although the proposed 4% tax was approved by legislators, a few more steps are needed until a local ordinance is passed.
County Administrator Matt Huddleston proposed two public meetings regarding the tax: Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. at the Lake County Highway Garage and Nov. 21 at 6 p.m. in Fall Lake, likely at the town hall.
The official public hearing for the tax, pending the public meetings, is set for the county board action meeting Dec. 3 in the Split Rock Room at the Lake County Service Center.
The public is invited to the meetings and hearing to receive more information, ask questions and provide feedback regarding the lodging tax. If the tax is passed by the board, it is expected to be implemented by April 1.
Superior Hiking Trail parking
During the Committee of the Whole meeting in Little Marais on Sept. 17, several residents addressed the board with concerns about the Superior Hiking Trail parking lot on County Road 5. Whenever there have been large events on the trail or heavy use weekends throughout the summer, residents reported several vehicles parking along both sides of the road causing low visibility and safety concerns.
According to Huddleston, representatives from the county met with Superior Hiking Trail Association members on-site and reviewed a plan to create a large parking lot that would address the board's and public's concerns.
Because the land bordering the lot is state school trust land, the expansion requires permission from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which Huddleston reports is underway. The SHTA has a goal to complete the project by fall of 2020.
Thye-Blatnik Boundary Waters Appraisal
In June, the Forest Service told the county it would receive a 53% reduction in Thye-Blatnik Act-authorized payments in-lieu-of-taxes due to a reappraisal of the BWCAW, which will mean $1.3 million in PILT revenue annually.
The estimated difference could cause the county to have to raise the levy by 12.6% to make up the lost revenue.
In September, the county met with the Forest Service appraisers and made a case for a reappraisal or reconsideration, along with St. Louis and Cook counties. Since then there hasn't been much news from the Forest Service, but the counties are sending a letter to the Department of Agriculture regarding the issue. The Secretary of Agriculture has the oversight on the appraisal.
The board is also planning on reaching out to U.S. Sen. Pete Stauber to see if they can get support from his office as well, while still waiting on the final decision from the Forest Service.