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County Board discusses disaster credits for homestead property


Fri, Sep 14th, 2007
Posted in Government

PRESTON - County Assessor Robert Pickett explained the current law regarding disaster credits on 2008 payable taxes for homesteaded property owners at the board's September 11 meeting. The Minnesota Statute 273.123 Reassessment of Homestead Property Damaged by Disaster spells out the options and the calculations to determine the amount of credit due a property owner. Pickett hoped that the special session of the state legislature would address and clarify funds available from the state for reimbursing local taxing districts for disaster credits.

Pickett quoted a flood data summary for the city of Rushford. Of the 645 total residential properties in Rushford, 356 were damaged or destroyed at an estimated value loss of $16,038,287. Of the 79 commercial properties, 66 were damaged or destroyed at an estimated value loss of $6,822,435. The total value loss would be $22,860,722. This figure represents the structures and real estate only and does not include any home contents or business contents or inventories.

Pickett noted that the reduction of tax is "based on the number of months the property was not used during the course of the year." "The county board may grant a reduction in the amount of the tax the owner must pay on the qualifying property in the year of the destruction and the following year."

Commissioner Randy Dahl added that people will need to apply for the credit. Pickett expects to send letters out notifying property owners plus putting out notices in the newspaper. Estimated Market Values after the loss will be calculated by formula.

Emergency Management

Emergency Management/Veterans Director Deborah Teske asked the board to consider amending an agreement with Gary Peterson to fill in for her for a forty hour week while she attends two conferences for additional training. The one seminar is on long-term recovery and she feels it would help over time dealing with the current flood disaster. Peterson is currently under contract with the county to help with a limited project in this department.

Commissioner Duane Bakke didn't question the need for someone to fill in for Teske in the office and at meetings, but did question the compensation requested by Peterson. The agreement was for $25 per hour and Bakke thought the wage set a bad precedent, didn't follow county policy and was excessive.

County Coordinator Karen Brown insisted that these are not normal times and that the wage stands alone with no fringe benefits. Teske added that she would request reimbursement from FEMA for the added wages and that Peterson has adequate emergency management experience to fill in for her and coordinate between FEMA, cities, and the county. Commissioner Chuck Amunrud added that Teske's deputy is overwhelmed with work for returning veterans. Dahl suggested that this is part of an ongoing need for another part time staffing position in this department.

Amunrud worried that if someone was not available to coordinate with FEMA and to attend meetings that the county could miss out on some available grant funding.

The additional agreement with Peterson to fill in for Teske during her absence was approved. Prestby and Bakke voted against. Bakke added that he was opposed only on the basis of the wage to be paid.

Budget and Levy

Karen Brown updated the board once again on the proposed preliminary budget for the county. The gross levy is $9,066,660 with $979,067 of that provided for by county program aid. The proposed 2008 levy is $8,087,593 which is a 10.53% increase from 2007. Dahl noted that the board is holding the preliminary higher to allow for the unexpected. Bakke suggested that the board look at the budget and the levy again in late October to evaluate needs related to the flood. Chairman Marc Prestby noted that the final levy set in December can be lower but not higher. Resolutions were passed approving the 2008 preliminary budget and the 2008 preliminary levy.

Sanitation

Jon Martin asked for and received approval to purchase a new compactor at the lowest quote of $51,826 from ABM Equipment, Hopkins, Minnesota. He added that another $6,000 will be needed after installation to rebuild part of the building. Martin said that the reserves are available for the purchase.

Other Business

• Kevin Kelleher addressed the board about his new position as of September 10 with the southeast regional office of the Department of Employment and Economic Development. His office is in Winona. He will act temporarily as the flood disaster coordinator for the Dept. of Employment. He said that victims of the flood deserve and need help now. He added that each city affected by the flood is unique and that he intends to listen to the mayors of the individual cities and learn what the needs are on the ground.

Kelleher suggested that funding sources are rigid and that he hoped that the state legislature will help provide some sources that are more flexible to fill in the gaps. He praised the response so far at the local level.

• The board voted to pay an additional $1300 per month on top of her current wage to Assistant County Attorney Kelly Wagner as she serves as Acting County Attorney. County Attorney Brett Corson will be on an unpaid leave of absence while deployed with the military for a year or longer starting in mid November. Wagner will earn the additional compensation with an added work load and added responsibility.

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