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Commissioners’ Report: End of legislative session shows state cuts


Fri, Jun 6th, 2003
Posted in Features

With the completion of the extended Minnesota Legislative session, cities and counties could assess the losses in local government aid and make necessary adjustments to their budgets.

Fillmore County Policy Coordinator Karen Brown briefed the county board on local government aid on Tuesday, June 3, using a 27 page summary from the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC). The following are some highlights:

Tax, Finance and General Government

•The levy limit will allow counties to levy back 60% of their 2004 aid and market value cuts. Special levies are left in tact. There are no growth adjustments for inflation. AMC views this as limiting a county’s ability to adequately address the huge aid reductions and cost shifts from the state.

•Property tax aid cuts resulted in $64 million allocated for 2003 and $107 million in 2004. These reductions will force counties to eliminate or severely cut back on non-mandated services.

•The state will now allow counties to use CPA’s to perform county audits, which will save a significant amount of money. The State Auditor retains the right to re-audit at the county’s expense.

•Many previous state mandated reports will be cut back, using up less county resources and funds.

•The Reverse Referendum language the governor was considering on local bonding was eliminated.

Health & Human Services

•Counties will be required to spend an additional $10 million in county funds to make up the 10% increase they are responsible for in using Regional Treatment Centers with Medical Assistance recipients.

•The state consolidated Children’s and Community Service grants. State funding is cut 27%, but puts all counties on a more level playing field.

•Consolidated eight state and federal public health grants. State funding cut by 22%.

•County nursing homes will not have rate reductions.

•Childcare suffered a $86 million cut. This could push more people on public assistance and cause some lower paid employees to remain at home with their children.

Transportation

•Local bridge money is gone.

•Highway money for 2004 looks relatively in tact.

•Electronic bidding will be permitted. Allows counties to publish their bids for highway projects, thus reducing the cost for publication.

Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resources

•Soil and Water Conservation Districts took a $872,000 hit in general service grants over the biennium and cost share funding is reduced by $1.45 million in each year.

•Feedlot Funding had been in jeopardy with proposed cuts of up to 20%. The $2,324,000 delegated for feedlot grants throughout the state is secure.

•County enforcement of noxious weeds is now voluntary.

•Septic tank installers must pay a $25 fee to the PCA for each septic system installed.

Corrections

•Felony offenders that have 180 days or less to serve will spend that time at the county jail rather than at a state facility, which is also overcrowded.

•Counties may double bunk offenders in jails if the facility is physically adaptable. This could help with overcrowding.

•Many new and additional fees for public safety and courts have been imposed. Fees will help maintain core programs.

•Community Corrections, CPO funding, felony caseload reduction and sex offender treatment funds were cut by 5%. This area had already experienced a 3% cut in 2002.

With this information, the county board is now in a position to determine where more cuts need to be made and will continue to work on the budget. Department heads were encouraged to give direction.

Other business

•Commissioner Randy Dahl addressed the issue of filling vacated positions. There is a concern that as the county will continue to tighten the purse strings, some individuals will be laid off. Commissioner Dahl wanted to again reiterate the need for county employees to look ahead, that their position may be one of those spots eliminated. Open positions should be looked upon as an alternative to being laid off, provided that they are qualified to fill a vacated position.

This being said, approval was given to advertise for a replacement Maintenance Specialist at the Cherry Grove shop.

•The board accepted the resignation of Heidi Hotvedt, Public Health Nurse, effective June 27. The .6 position will be filled, as it is a federally mandated spot. Sharon Serfling, Public Health Director, requested that a lock be installed at the front area of the department to curtail individuals from walking into confidential areas of the department.

•A letter of request to be considered a regional center for the University of MN Extension Office will be sent.

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