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County won't raise taxes to cover state shortfall

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news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Beltrami County won't raise property taxes to cover state-mandated services affected by state budget cuts, according to a resolution commissioners will consider Tuesday.

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The County Board "will not raise the county property tax levy for activities and programs which have been created and mandated by the state without adequate state funding," states the draft resolution.

The matter is part of the board's 5 p.m. regular meeting at the County Administration Building, 701 Minnesota Ave.

Earlier, during its 3 p.m. work session, commissioners will hold a video conference with Jim Mulder, executive director of the Association of Minnesota Counties, to consider issues related to the 2009 legislative session.

Lawmakers sent Gov. Tim Pawlenty a budget that called for a tax increase, which he vetoed but did enact the spending bills, creating a $3 billion funding gap. He line-item vetoed health care for the state's most poor adults, and used unallotment to remove $2.7 billion in state spending this new biennium.

Human services programs are the most affected, behind a $1.8 billion delay in state payments to school districts.

The Beltrami County Board "is the governing board most aware of the needs and priorities of the residents of Beltrami County and the County Board intends to proceed with a county process to establish a fiscally responsible 2010-11 county budget that recognizes the strategic priorities of the county," states the resolution.

It notes that counties had wanted to be a part of a budget-balancing solution that would give them flexibility to deliver state programs based on outcomes.

"The Legislature and the governor approved token but insignificant local government mandate relief to counties," the resolution states. Pawlenty's unallotment of County Program Aid from the state "will adversely affect Beltrami County by reducing funding for state-mandated activities and programs."

It states that the county has adequate reserves for unforeseen emergencies "but not as a long-term source for government operation" and that the county "should not be obligated to increase locally generated revenue in an attempt to compensate for state-imposed funding cuts for state-mandated services."

Commissioners, also at their regular meeting, will consider a resolution urging Congress to pass comprehensive health care reform, a resolution of support for 2010 state capital bonding for its jail efficiency project, and approve updates to the Beltrami County Sheriff's Department Policy Manual.

Commissioners had earlier hoped to issue county bonds for the jail project, seen as needed to upgrade a 25-year-old facility, but the economy caused them to put off additional bonding.

They would ask, under the request Tuesday, for $1.99 million in state bonding to be matched by the county for the jail upgrade $3.98 million project. Funding would be decided by the 2010 Legislature.

Energy efficiency improvements include replacing the existing and obsolete systems and equipment, such as boilers, pumps, chillers, security and temperature controls, heat recovery and humidification systems, emergency generator and lighting throughout the building.

Also, food service capacity would be expanded, an efficient intake and release area provided, improved medical services and expansion of inmate program areas and visiting and administration space.

During the afternoon work session, commissioners will discuss authority, responsibility and policy for chemical dependency treatment. Commissioners will be asked for a policy direction in moving toward outcome-based contracting for treatment.

The board's consent agenda includes paying county bills and warrant payment listing, resolution of support for a ski trail equipment grant, approval of a forest road agreement for federal stimulus funding and approval of a food service management agreement for the jail.

Commissioners will be asked to approve an internal posting for a human services income maintenance supervisor position to replace Linda Rongstad, who is retiring Aug. 28

bswenson@bemidjipioneer.com

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Pioneer staff reports
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