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Tschumper addresses county board


Fri, Apr 6th, 2007
Posted in Government

PRESTON - Representative Ken Tschumper started his discussion saying that he had some good news at the April 3 board meeting. He said that the $500,000 needed to forgive Fillmore County's MR-RC (mental retardation and related conditions) Waiver debt has been put into the Health and Human Services Budget. He explained that if the governor doesn't 'line item veto' the funds, the entire debt would be forgiven for the county. Eleven counties originally overspent in their effort to satisfy state mandates. Seven counties have already had their debt forgiven.

Tschumper reviewed the house version of the Transportation Bill. He suggested that the bill is bi-partisan, a give and take effort, that nobody likes it in its entirety. MnDot is coming up short of its goals because of a dollar shortfall of two billion per year. In 2000, 81% of the highways were rated as smooth, that percent fell to 67% in 2005. Governor Pawlenty has stated that he will veto any tax increases. Tschumper complained that the governor hasn't been very forthcoming on what he would offer as an alternative if he vetoes a bill.

The representative noted that the ridership of the metro transit has been better than expected. He explained that transit systems are very expensive to build, but in the long run will be a smart investment.

The Transportation Bill should provide Property Tax relief, as cities and counties have been forced to use local funds for road projects. Tschumper favors a gasoline tax increase as a purer user fee. Those who use the roads pay as they go. Polls show that people want the roads improved, but a large proportion of people don't support a gas tax increase.

Tschumper thanked the board for their support along with about fifty other counties for the Smoking Ban. He noted the strong support by Public Health groups.

Commissioner Chuck Amunrud asked if the sales tax paid by local government units would be repealed. Tschumper said that there is little support for a repeal since it provides substantial revenue for the state. Amunrud insisted that the sales tax doesn't make any sense, causing local governments to use property taxes to raise money to pay the state.

Tschumper said that property tax relief is a major issue. He said that property taxes are a very regressive tax. Property tax relief would help a lot of lower income people. He suggested that there has been a substantial increase in Food Shelf services primarily by senior citizens that are getting pinched by high property taxes all over Minnesota. Tom Boyd, Social Services, called the increase in property taxes a result of "cost shifts," from the state to the county or city.

Rep. Tschumper thinks there will be funds to provide health care for uninsured children which he says will save a lot in the long run. More farmers should qualify for MN Care, since business depreciation amounts should not need to be added back in to determine income for screening purposes.

Social Services

Several staff members were present to report on child protection, as April is Child Protection Month. Social workers work with law enforcement and schools to provide services. Social Service Supervisor Wendy Ebner noted that team members have been on the job for many years offering continuity and consistency. Social Worker Vicky Giese explained that over the years the family dynamics, affected by drugs, mental health, etc. have become much more complicated.

Stan Stutzman, Alternative Treatment Associates, serves 21 counties in Minnesota and Iowa. He complimented the team in Fillmore County as doing an especially good job. They have the three C's; consistency, commitment (less resources than larger counties, but use them well), and competence. He noted that when he started in Fillmore County in 1989, most counties did preventative work. Now, in his opinion because of lack of money, that approach is gone.

Wendy Ebner said that placements are down as the team does what it can to keep a child in the home. Stutzman noted that 80% of the time kids stay in the home.

County Attorney Brett Corson complimented the group on their good work. He explained that they approach families with regular contact with good results. Giese suggested that because there are only two social workers, they are with the families through the whole process, thus provide continuity.

Tom Boyd suggested that it is a tough job, adversarial at times as the families are not always happy to see the workers.

Commissioner Amunrud thanked the group for their work as he grew up in one of those families.

Boyd updated the board on County Based Purchasing discussions. Boyd feels it would be helpful if the legislature would change the wording of the law. He said the issue is very complicated and that the private sector makes a lot of money and are resisting change. Counties that are already using County Based Purchasing are saving money.

Grazing Study

The board had asked Donna Rasmussen to obtain some quotes from qualified individuals who can do a financial analysis on fifteen different grazing operations. The board approved the quote from Dan Miller, an adult farm business management instructor, at $6300.

Emergency Management

A public hearing was held on the Emergency Management Ordinance with no citizens present. Both Deborah Teske, Emergency Management Director, and Karen Brown, County Coordinator, said that they had received no negative or positive comments. Chuck Amunrud noted that the concerns from the people in Spring Valley have been satisfied. The ordinance was adopted.

The board approved the purchase of software for data collection. Resource information from all cities and townships will be collected and be accessible by each of them and the county. Houston County will also share its resource information with Fillmore County and vise versa online. Teske noted that the state and federal governments are working toward a similar data base.

Heather Barth was approved as deputy director. She was recommended by Teske and the Emergency Management Committee.

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