Tuesday, March 11, 2008

County Board Gets Update on “Minnesota’s Shrinking Government”

At their Committee of the Whole meeting on March 11th the Board heard from a consultant to the “Property Tax Study Group” which is made up of counties, cities and school districts in the Minneapolis/St Paul and Duluth area. The presentation clearly articulated how the State of MN has increasingly taken a greater share of taxes with counties and other local governments getting a lesser share. At the same time, they are mandated to increasingly provide more and more services to residents.

The Board struggled with how to get this information out to taxpayers/residents in a way that they could understand. They were frustrated that the press did not stick around for this meeting where the presentation occurred. (note to the Board: this presentation was on the agenda for 11am so if you had figured out how to actually have it at that time maybe the press would have reported on it!)

Commissioner Fink suggested that this presentation be timed to coincide with when people pay their property taxes in the hopes that folks will pay attention then. He indicated, “When the public is interested we ought to tell them what they need to know”.
Commissioner Kron suggested they send out a newsletter with the headline, “State raises your property taxes”.

The Auditor indicated that property tax statements are going out right now so if they wanted to draw attention to this issue now might be the time.

Commissioners asked appropriate questions and participated in a respectful discussion about this issue.

Request for Free Conveyance of Tax Forfeited Land by the Duluth Board of Education

A representative from the Duluth Public Schools came asking that the county convey a piece of property (110 feet x 125 feet) by Lester Park School to the District. They want to put a parking lot there. Commissioner Fink spoke against this, indicating that he was concerned about the lost revenue to the county in that the District was not going to break ground until 2011. Debate ensued and the rest of the commissioners thought it made sense to go ahead now, versus making the District come back later. Fink than launched into a story about property in his district that belongs to the school district and how maybe the county might want to make a trade down the road. He was unhappy that folks had made light of the small amount of revenue that SLC was getting from the Lester Park area property and then everyone apologized for having said this. (Commissioner Forsman had done a little math and figured out how much it had cost them in employee time while they debated this issue)

Commissioner Nelson Recommended to Serve on the Advisory Committee to the Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area

At their next Board meeting, Commissioners will vote to appoint Commissioner Nelson to this committee.

Respectful Workplace Training

Al Mitchell encouraged all commissioners to attend this training. So far O’Neill is the one commissioner who has attended. Encourage your commissioner to go!