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Beltrami County assesses legislative effect on budget

If Gov. Tim Pawlenty's plans to balance the budget himself take effect, millions of dollars of red ink could flow to Beltrami County.

County commissioners, at their 5 p.m. regular meeting Tuesday, will discuss the effect of the 2009 Minnesota Legislature on the county's budget. The session by State Constitution must adjourn by midnight Monday.

And Pawlenty has pledged that if no budget agreement is in place by then, he'll unilaterally balance the budget with line-item vetoes in spending bills and in unallotment of funds come July 1.

The board will review available information that may impact the development of future county budgets on Tuesday.

Commissioners will also review the county's Resource Fund, payments-in-lieu-of-taxes 15 percent fund and County Development Fund grant programs.

On Saturday night, Republican Pawlenty charted out what he'd be cutting if the DFL-led Legislature couldn't come to agreement on a budget plan to fills a $3 billion gap between available revenues and the spending bills it sent to him.

He had already line-item vetoed $381 million to eliminate the General Assistance Medical Care program for the most destitute Minnesotans in 2011. That program affects mostly hospitals but also involves county clients in the PrimeWest Health program, a form of county-based purchasing of health care services.

On Saturday, Pawlenty's proposed cuts include $8 million in PILT payment adjustments, as well as another $250 million in health and human services spending.

Beltrami County receives PILT funds for state-managed lands that are not on the property tax levies.

"PILT funds have increased each year and that is because the state built an 'inflator' into the formula, recognizing that it is more expensive to deliver services each year," Beltrami County Auditor-Treasurer Kay Mack states in a memo to commissioners.

Other funds fluctuate, as they are dependent upon the amount of timber actually being sold by the state each year and the price that they receive for it, Mack said.

PILT 15 percent funding the past five years from Consolidated Conservation Lands has totaled $1.19 million, of which $428,424 has been used to fund a northern deputy.

Resources funding has totaled $882,640 over the past five years, she said.

While there is nearly a $400,000 balance from all the funds, Mack says the County Board may want to review the strategic focus of the grant programs and review the grant process for all three funds. The balance comes from setting aside contingency funds but with no confidence of future funding.

Most of the funds are used to fund grants for the promotion of tourism, agriculture and industrial development.

Commissioners at their 3 p.m. work session will receive the County Highway Department's annual report, hear an update on the Northern Dental Access Center, receive a 2009 county parks and recreation update, and receive the Minnesota Counties Insurance Trust annual member report.

Commissioners will also spend part of the work session in a conference call with Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji.

The board's consent agenda includes county bills and warrant payment listing, considering a Beltrami Electric Cooperative easement request in Sugar Bush Township, and approval of 2009 agricultural leases.

Also, the board will consider a wetland technical advisory panel review and recommendations for an after-the-fact application from Sunset Cove in Ten Lake Township. The panel recommends denial of the permit for a private road to the resort constructed over wetlands.

Commissioners will be asked to approve a request for Resource Conservation & Development Association federal funding assistance from the Marshall-Beltrami Soil and Water Conservation District, for a host county contract with Sweet Williams Assisted Care, for a contract amendment with Autumn Hills of Bemidji Inc., and of an evaluation contract for a Minnesota Family Investment Program pilot project with Idea Circle Inc.

Commissioners will also receive monthly health and human services reports and licensing, and pay HHS bills.