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Editorial: Jeers to litterbugs at Tamarac, cheers to county veterans service office

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opinion Detroit Lakes, 56501

Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Jeers to all those people who spend the winter months driving around, drinking beer, and throwing the cans out the window at the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge.

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During a recent drive through the refuge, one young boy noted that "there is more litter than wildlife" along the ditches, and he was right.

The roadways are littered with all sorts of trash -- putting a damper on what should be a scenic drive any time of the year.

It's not a new problem for the refuge, according to Tamarac manager Neal Powers, and spring cleanup plans are underway.

On Friday there will be a general cleaning around the area of the headquarters building, and staff will also be doing ditch cleanup work.

"Our staff has litter routes," Powers said. "They'll be out and about picking up litter in the near future."

Kudos to the refuge staff for being on top of the problem, but it's too bad they have to spend their time cleaning up other people's roadside trash.

***

Cheers to the Becker County Veterans Service Office, which has essentially tripled the amount of federal and state dollars brought into Becker County in the form of VA benefits.

In 2006, veterans in Becker County received benefits totaling about $6.5 million. By last year that number had grown to $18.2 million.

Becker County Veterans Service Officer Lauri Brooke is also spearheading a Tri-County Veterans Roundup, set for 2-7 p.m. July 9 at the Menahga Senior Center, with a parade to follow.

"We've had a great response," she told county commissioners Tuesday. Representatives from the Veterans Administration and a dozen or so other veterans' organizations will be there.

The Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans will do a cold-weather clothing distribution, "to prepare veterans who are homeless or will be imminently homeless for cold weather," she said.

"We have set the date and we have set the place and the response has been phenomenal," Brooke said.

Veterans, family members, friends and anyone concerned about veterans are welcome to attend.

***

The deadline for filing income taxes has come and gone, but for planning purposes, tax season is never far away.

That's why we wanted to let you know that the Tax Foundation has added a new tax calculator to its collection of online tools that allows individuals to measure how changes in their income will affect their marginal tax rate and their total tax liability.

The 2011 Marginal Tax Rates Calculator is programmed to estimate tax bills for the current year and provide a custom generated graph illustrating total taxes, average tax rates, effective marginal rates and more.

"Because of the progressive nature of the federal income tax, a person's tax rate climbs as they earn a higher income," said analyst and programmer Nick Kasprak. "The change in rates, as well as other year-to-year changes in exemptions and deductions claimed, can dramatically change a household's effective tax rate. The 2011 Marginal Tax Rates Calculator combines these variables for a unified view of how liabilities change under different financial scenarios."

The Tax Rates Calculator also includes an instructional video in which Kasprak walks users through the experience of using the tool and creating their own custom graph. Estimates of individual and household tax liabilities are for income earned during the current year, and apply to tax returns that will be filed in 2012.

The Tax Foundation interactive site also features an expanded database of property tax information by county. This tool allows homeowners to see how property tax bills in their area stack up against other areas across the United States.

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