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Commissioners Report: Flood impacts on county budget

Fri, Sep 7th, 2007
Posted in Government

PRESTON - County Coordinator Karen Brown updated the board on the county's preliminary budget for 2008 at the September 4 meeting. She explained that the proposed budget has been whittled down by over $195,000 with savings found in several departments. The expected levy increase is now 10.86% and with the use of reserve funds the levy increase can be lowered to 7.8% increase. After the preliminary budget is determined in mid September, it can be lowered but not raised for the final budget certification in December.

Commissioner Randy Dahl added that the impact of the levy needs to be considered across the whole population of the county. He said that the recent devastation from the floods will have a huge impact on the tax base reducing property values in the damaged areas which will effect the rest of the tax payers in the county. Commissioner Duane Bakke explained that the final percent levy increase for the whole county may not be reflected on an individual's property tax percent increase which may be more or less. Many factors are figured in including improvements, green acres and more. Bakke suggested that because of the unknowns at this time as a result of the floods, it is prudent to hold the preliminary budget at a higher level, until December when it could be reduced if possible. Commissioner Chuck Amunrud agreed that they need to be cautious until they have more information as to the county's responsibility. Dahl insisted that the state legislature needs to be called into special session to help with the flood recovery. He said that the state has revenue sources that the county doesn't have and that property tax revenues can not solve this problem. He added that reconstruction requires money and that the state needs to step in and help.

With the FEMA programs, the federal government pays 75% of eligible costs to fix and rebuild public infrastructure and emergency operations including search and rescue, health and safety, overtime, and security and equipment. The last 25% is provided by state and local governments. Dahl stated that the county could be responsible for as much as 15% which would be untenable for the county. That portion that the county may need to provide is the big unknown for the budget. Commissioners brought attention to a letter from the governor's office to the state legislators which gave preliminary damage numbers for the seven county area. The numbers were put together for an August 27 letter and commissioners complained that they were just a small percentage of the actual damages. A meeting in Rushford with the Minnesota Legislative Bonding Committee to be held on September 5 and another on the same day in Winona would be an opportunity to make legislators aware of more accurate damage figures.


Zoning Administrator Norman Craig offered a resolution to adopt a new Wind Energy Conversion Systems Ordinance. He noted that the Fillmore County Planning Commission had held a public hearing on August 16 without comment. Craig said that the ordinance had been taken from the Lyon County Ordinance in the western part of the state. He said that their ordinance is very good. The ordinance applies to systems of 5 MW or less. The Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval. The ordinance was approved.

Amendments to Sections 3 through 7 of the Fillmore County Zoning Ordinance were approved. There was a public hearing on the amendments on August 16 and the Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval. There were two major changes to the sections. A campground is no longer considered to be a PUD and PUD's would not be in the Ag District, but within city limits. The board approved the resolution for the amendments.

Orval Sorum & Sons was granted a Conditional Use Permit to operate a Rock Quarry in Norway Township.

County Attorney

County Attorney Brett Corson updated the board on progress toward filling his position during his absence while on active duty with the military. He expects to leave in the middle of November and to be gone at least one year. Assistant County Attorney Kelly Wagner will be the acting county attorney in his absence and will receive a monthly increase in salary for the added work and responsibility. Area county attorneys have offered to be available for advice.

Corson asked the board for permission to go ahead and advertise for a full time temporary assistant county attorney to fill in for Kelly Wagner. The board by consensus gave Corson the go ahead for the search for another attorney and to draw up a contract with Kelly Wagner for the acting county attorney position. Corson will also be gone three weeks in September to study Arabic language. Corson will not be compensated by the county while in military service since he will then be considered a federal employee. He will be on an unpaid leave of absence.

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