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Beltrami County fund for non-profits shrinks

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Beltrami County fund for non-profits shrinks
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

The well's nearly dry for non-profits that count on Beltrami County grants.

At one time set at $200,000, this fall finds a dozen community groups asking for $221,199 from a dry County Development Fund well that has only $80,000.

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Funds are expected to "decline dramatically," County Administrator Tony Murphy said Tuesday during the County Board's work session.

The county is expected to earn only $400,000 in net income in 2009 from timber sales, which by law is split into different pots, County Natural Resource Management Director Greg Snyder said.

Of the total, up to 30 percent -- but no more than $200,000 -- goes to the County Development Fund and Timber Development Fund, he said. The fund used for grants to non-profits engaged in agriculture, tourism or industrial development.

Another 20 percent is set aside for a county parks and trails fund. Of the remaining 50 percent, 40 percent each goes to the county's general fund and to school districts, and 20 percent is apportioned to cities and townships.

"Factors behind the projected decrease in apportionment dollars from the tax-forfeit department include a decline in timber prices over the past few years and the planned expenditure of funds for timber development work that had been set aside during the pine-budworm-related harvest/housing boom era," Snyder said.

Stumpage for aspen declined from $63 a cord in 2005 to $25 a cord this year, he said.

During some boom years early in this decade when diseased jackpine was harvested, monies were set aside in a Timber Development Department for reforestation and in a Memorial Forest Department for county parks. Those funds now depleted, "forest development costs have largely been shifted into the Tax-Forfeited Department," Snyder said.

With timber sales projections declining, he said the amount for county non-profit grants will decline from $80,000 in 2010 to $75,000 in 2011 and $44,000 in 2012. Similarly, total net income will drop from $400,000 this year to $385,000 in 2011 and then $200,000 in 2011.

Commissioners on Tuesday received a thick notebook of the 2010 non-profit requests, totaling $221,199.

"With the amount to apportion dramatically lower, we ought to consider a period of one or two years that we don't make disbursements," said Commissioner Jim Heltzer. "We aren't going to make them happy anyway. But then the world would know we don't have increased money to pay for these things."

Heltzer floated the idea of a moratorium on giving out County Development Fund grants, citing the reforestation of county lands the top priority for county spending.

There will be enough revenue to continue reforestation and other NRM staff forest management duties, Snyder said.

"Budget projections for 2010-11 indicate an income level sufficient to support our goals of managing for forest health, providing wood to local mills, and reforesting harvested areas," he said.

Murphy said commissioners may have to take a different direction in the future when considering County Development Fund grant requests.

"In the past, you've cut back grant requests," Murphy told commissioners. "Now you might want to consider not funding several of them. It's a different decision but justifiable. It will get worse."

This year's County Development Fund requests for 2010 include:

- Beltrami County Agricultural Association (Fair Board) -- $30,000; various building improvements and repairs.

- Beltrami County Historical Society -- $18,000; provide for exhibit, "Doctor, Doctor give me the news ...", which will explore the history of medicine and health care in Beltrami County.

- Beltrami Humane Society -- $9,000; shelving, a shed and other repairs and improvements to the society's animal shelter.

- Blackduck Area History & Art Center -- $7,775; handicap alternations, printing of brochures, additional lighting and music system, [improvements to a photo gallery area, and outdoor event equipment such as tables, portable shelters and outside sound system.

- Boys & Girls Club of the Bemidji Area -- $16,024; building roof repairs.

- City of Blackduck -- $26,400; Blackduck Wayside Rest improvements.

- Evergreen House -- $25,000; help provide a new facility that would include 15 to 20 youth housing units to providing supportive services to homeless youth and young adults.

- Headwaters School of Music & the Arts -- $4,000; repairs and improvements to performance hall.

- Headwaters Science Center -- $10,000; hands-on exhibit concerning human respiration, circulation and nutrition and their relation to exercise.

- Joint Economic Development Commission -- $30,000; new business recruitment.

- Northern Dental Access Clinic -- $25,000; construction and equipment costs for an additional four operatory bays.

- Ours to Serve House of Hospitality -- $20,000; furnish Village of Hope, a new $1.4 million homeless shelter.

Total of all requests: $221,199.

Amount available to distribute: $80,000

bswenson@bemidjipioneer.com

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