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County amends Computer Replacement Policy

Fri, Jan 30th, 2009
Posted in Government

The Fillmore County Board had a light agenda at their January 27 meeting. In accordance with their ongoing effort to rein in costs where possible an amendment to the computer replacement policy was amended to read "as needed," removing wording for a planned replacement at four year intervals.

The Information Systems (IS) Committee recommended that each department head keep maintenance records and request replacement from the Information Systems staff when needed. County Coordinator Karen Brown referred to the new policy as a "just in time" purchasing policy.

The IS committee recommended wording saying this new policy was implemented during the 2009 budget cutting process and should be reviewed annually. The commissioners by consensus struck this wording and approved the rest of the amendment as recommended by the committee.

Commissioner Duane Bakke insisted that the amendment to the policy was desirable even before the recent money crunch. Brown said that the documentation of maintenance work will help recognize a "lemon" computer and lessen lost productivity because of down time.

Bakke questioned whether using the state bid to purchase rather than putting out for bids is the most economical. Commissioner Randy Dahl commented that there were deals out there cheaper than the state bid. The state bid also restricts the choices. Bakke insisted that the computers used by the commissioners should be the same. Brown assured the commissioners that the prices available compared to the state bid are checked on a regular basis.

Dahl suggested that he didn't need a computer with as much memory as ordered to replace his failing machine. Chairman Chuck Amunrud responded, "Sometimes when you look for less you end up paying more." He stressed that it was important that the computers be compatible with other departments. Commissioner Marc Prestby agreed, "Once you start customizing, you start paying more."

Legislative Amendment

Amunrud explained that counties across the state had asked that the state legislature approve an amendment that would have rescinded Maintenance of Effort (MOE) required by the state. The amendment was defeated in the legislative committee. MOE's require set levels of local expenditures. The MOE is a statutory requirement which requires the counties, in this case, to maintain program funding at a set minimum level. The level is usually set based on a level of expenditures for services for the county at an arbitrary point in time. This fails to allow the county any flexibility and fails to provide an "incentive to make programs more efficient or effective."

The Minnesota Inter-County Association makes it clear that MOE's and required matches of funds or cost shares to qualify for state or federal dollars for discretionary or mandated services place counties between a "rock and a hard place." This has become especially problematic with the levy limits imposed by the state on local governments from 2009 to 2011.

Amunrud added that their is a consensus among the counties that they need flexibility in balancing their own budgets. The Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) Redesign Project is basically an effort to change the way the county and state governments do business. Amunrud suggested that even though the amendment failed that they got their message across. He insisted that they need to continue to get their message out. The complaint from the counties is that the state has asked the counties to balance their budgets while limiting their ability to raise revenue through property taxes and also not allowing a reduction in program service levels.

Bakke said that the biggest issue with MOE's is the social service programs. The amendment would have held the counties harmless. Bakke remarked that the committee vote was a done deal even before testimony from the counties. MOE's affect the providing of services including, but not limited to, social services, public safety and library funding. Counties including Fillmore County just want the ability to invest with their limited resources to those areas which best serve their county, instead of some inflexible mechanism that directs funding in a one size fits all way. Dahl complained that there was no up front discussion, no consideration of right and wrong.

Bakke explained that the Redesign Project is not a silver bullet to fix the budget problems of today, but a three or four year effort to look at all these things. He added that it would be better to have Program Aid which could be transparent and understandable by the public instead of this complicated system for Local Government Aid.

Amunrud stated that the county has to find out what our local cost is for each MOE and get into the discussion whenever budgets are discussed.

Other Business in Brief

• Sheriff Daryl Jensen asked for and received approval to purchase a 2003 Chevrolet Police package Impala with 64,000 miles from the city of Preston for $4,000. The county will sell at auction a 2003 Impala with mechanical and electrical problems and over 100,000 miles on it. The better conditioned car will be more reliable and used for transport and patrol.

• The 2009 labor agreement with the International Union of Operating Engineers was approved. Highway Engineer John Grindeland said that the agreement was for one year.

• Prestby noted that $492,503 has been dispersed so far from the Debris Grant. He suggested that some recent applications have gotten away from the original intent.

• Amunrud asked each of the commissioners to view the proof of the county map and study each of their respective districts to check for errors before printing. Townships and cities have been each asked to do the same proofreading of the map

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