Wright County Board Minutes

NOVEMBER 26, 2013
The Wright County Board met in regular session at 9:00 A.M. with Husom, Sawatzke, Daleiden, Potter and Borrell present.
Daleiden moved to approve the 11-19-13 County Board Minutes as presented. The motion was seconded by Husom and carried unanimously.
Husom moved to approve the Agenda as presented, seconded by Borrell, carried 5-0.
On a motion by Borrell, second by Potter, all voted to approve the Consent Agenda:
1. O/T Report, Period Ending 11-09-13.
2. Refer Discussion On Lunch Time Wellness Events To Personnel Committee.
1. Approve Renewal of 2014 Tobacco License for: Croix Oil Company DBA Croix Convenience – Albertville #52 (City of Albertville); Flippin Bill’s (City of Delano); Roger’s Amoco, Inc. DBA Roger’s BP-Amoco, H & H Outdoor Outfitter and Sports Shop, Inc. DBA H & H Sport Shop (City of Maple Lake); Monticello 1998 LLC DBA Cub Foods #1632, MMC Development Corp. DBA O’Ryans Marathon, Northern Tier Retail, LLC DBA SuperAmerica #4479, Walgreen Co. DBA Walgreens #13938 (City of Monticello); JLM, LLC DBA Pour Bottle Shop (City of Otsego); Northern Tier Retail, LLC DBA SuperAmerica #4267, Northern Tier Retail, LLC DBA SuperAmerica #4554, Walgreen Co. DBA Walgreens #13842 (City of St. Michael); South Haven Sports, LLC (City of South Haven).
2. Position Replacement:
A. Approve Backfill Of Accounting Technician I Position With Office Technician I Position.
1. Position Replacements:
A. 1.0 FTE Child Protection Social Worker.
B. Mental Health Professional III Social Worker – Family Assessment Unit.
Genell Reese, Veterans Services/Civil Defense Director, requested the Board authorize signatures on the Radiological Emergency Preparedness Grant for Grant Fiscal year 2014-2015. The Plan requires annual approval. Potter moved to authorize signatures as requested, seconded by Daleiden, carried 5-0.
Reese requested the Board authorize signatures on the annual update of the Radiological Emergency Preparedness Plan. Daleiden moved to authorize signatures as requested. The motion was seconded by Borrell and carried 5-0.
A Technology Committee Meeting was held on 11-13-13. At today’s County Board Meeting, Sawatzke inquired what the County currently pays for smart phones. Bob Hiivala, Auditor/Treasurer, said the cost is about $55/month. Daleiden said that with a stipend paid to the employee, the County will realize savings associated with maintaining equipment. With the stipend, the employee would be required to purchase and maintain their own equipment. He added that the implementation group that is being recommended does not deal with private data so they will be a good test group. Husom said that when this was first discussed with the Highway Department for cell phone use, it appeared there would be a tremendous savings in that area. She said smart phones were not part of that discussion. Sawatzke asked whether the effective date will be 1-01-14 for the test group. Daleiden said it will depend on the date of cancellation for existing coverage. Potter moved to approve the minutes and recommendations. The motion was seconded by Husom and carried 5-0:
I. Bring Your Own Device/Cell Phone Stipend.
Swing said the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) concept was introduced a year ago while rewriting the County Acceptable Use Of Technology Policy. He said the BYOD concept allows employees to use their personal devices for County business, instead of issuing them separate County devices. He added that there is a savings with this approach.
Swing said the BYOD project team consists of Jobe, Partlow, Hausmann, Hawkins, Asleson, Bigelow, Hiivala, L. Kelly, and himself. Swing distributed the Technology Committee meeting agenda, the “Wright County BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Agreement” (BYOD Agreement) and a document titled, “Recommended BYOD Policy Changes” (see attachments). He wanted to discuss the ramifications of the Policy on data protection.
Swing referred to the BYOD Agreement, Item 16. If the personal device of an employee was compromised, the County has the right to access the device, if necessary, due to litigation or an investigation. Asleson said this right could include more than access. Letters received from private counsel representing the County indicate the employee should surrender the device in the event of lawsuits, for example. Hiivala said all the data on the phone would likely be on the employee’s desktop as well.
Partlow said the data referred to is information not accessed through the Mobile Device Management (MDM) system. She said it is possible to access the Internet with a smart phone that would not necessarily go through MDM.
Swing said the MDM allows the County to control devices, applications, and County data. He said County personnel would not invade personal information. If there were an event, an Information Technology (IT) employee could bring in their device and the County portion of data could be deleted.
Daleiden said there are many issues related to HIPAA and other security matters. He suggested experimenting with employees who don’t access private client data, such as truck drivers, highway workers, and surveyors. Swing responded that they were considering starting with Highway personnel. Jobe said Hawkins and he were hoping to implement this program soon.
Daleiden said this program should be implemented on an all or nothing basis. He did not want half of Highway Department drivers using their personal cell phones, and the other half requesting County-provided phones. He said allowing employees to use their own devices would alleviate the need for IT to coordinate distribution and maintenance of County phones.
Partlow said there is a need for County phones in Human Services. Daleiden said Human Services is not the place to initiate this program. Partlow responded that her staff feels that using personal phones for County business is not an option due to the data they hold. She added that non-supervisory staff will not want to provide their personal information to clients, but only to supervisors and managers.
Daleiden said the program should initially be used with the Highway Department. Swing agreed, as the process is in the testing stage. Hiivala asked whether the truck drivers will need MDM. Daleiden said no, as they do not deal with private data. Hausmann added that drivers do not use smart phones; they only call or text messages.
Daleiden said truck drivers are not supposed to use their phones while driving unless they are wearing a head set. He asked whether the County has purchased blue tooth devices for them. Hawkins said the County does not provide truck drivers with phones. They may use shop phones. Radios are also available. Daleiden asked for clarification of the issue, since Highway personnel has other communication devices available. Hawkins replied that drivers use cell phones to text their supervisor. He said the BYOD program will cost his Department less because the shop cell phones are expensive and not often used.
Daleiden said a clause should be inserted in the Agreement that says State law prohibits a truck driver or commercial driver from using a cell phone while driving. Swing said that verbiage is referenced in the County Policy. Hawkins added that the issue surfaced a few years ago. Daleiden asked that it be added to the County BYOD Agreement. Swing said the Policy states that employees must abide by all acceptable use Policy statements.
Daleiden said Section 711.10 of the County Policy and Procedures Manual addresses use of cell phones while driving. Kelly said the attached recommended BYOD Policy Changes is only a snapshot of the entire Policy, which contains the wording Daleiden requests. Daleiden asked whether employees using their own devices for County business will receive a copy of the complete Policy. He contended drivers won’t read it. Swing said there are many things listed in the Policy. Daleiden said he was primarily concerned with State laws pertaining to actions such as texting while driving. He asked that the Policy include a statement that requires drivers to abide by the Minnesota laws. Hawkins said they receive a copy of the full policy attached to their copy of the Agreement. Daleiden said he wants to make sure employees read the full policy.
Swing said he feels strongly about data protection. Kelly said the Agreement provides notification to the employee. He said there was concern about redundancy last year when rewriting Section 711 of the Policy. Item # 14 of the BYOD Agreement states that the employee has read and will comply with Section 711.08c of the County Personnel Policy Manual.
Kelly said the Administration Department should notify Department Heads to not allow use of personal cell phones for County business outside of work hours, or pay the employee for their time. Hiivala said if Department Heads are aware of an employee working at night, the County is liable to compensate them for it. Daleiden countered that they were not given instructions to work late.
Asleson said many counties are moving toward a BYOD Agreement, despite the concerns. He attended a recent Risk Management seminar conducted by the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust (MCIT) that neither advocated nor advised against such a policy. Daleiden said he wants to eliminate as many liability concerns as possible.
Hawkins said 21 other counties have a BYOD Policy. A document entitled “Summary of County BYOD Stipends and Policies (Summer 2013)” was distributed (see attached).
Asleson said the issue at hand is private data, including client and employee personal data. If an employee texts their supervisor that they are sick, that is considered private data. Kelly said that is a component of risk management. The County must determine what constitutes a tolerable level of risk. Swing said department heads are responsible for determining whether or not information is private. He added that there are no absolute definitions of private data. Devices will not generally be used to access private data. The department head determines usage.
Daleiden suggested starting with the Highway, Parks, and Surveyor Departments at this time. Swing commented that a gradual implementation is best.
Hausmann asked whether the Active Sync is on. Swing explained that the County utilizes Active Sync to sync the calendar to individual devices, and MDM for devices that access and hold private data. Active Sync also provides the ability to wipe the device clean of data.
Daleiden asked what the County pays for basic cell phone (not smart phone) service. Hiivala said it is $8 per month plus a certain amount for minutes. There is also a plan for $15 per month. Hausmann took the average cell phone bills and divided by the total number of devices to determine cost.
Swing said the carrier representative occasionally makes recommendations for employees to go from the group plan of $15 per month to the plan that is $8 per month and 8 cents per minute. Hiivala said his Department prints out two bills – one for smart phones and one for basic phones. Daleiden said an average of the two will need to be calculated before moving forward.
Daleiden suggested not implementing a stipend for tablets at this time to allow Swing to finish with MDM implementation. Swing said his staff is testing different tablets. Daleiden asked whether IT has used MDM yet. Theoretically, if the tablet is synced, Active Sync should be able to restore deleted data when connected to the computer.
Daleiden was not comfortable with the cost range of $8 and $15 per month. Swing said the County has saved a lot of money with flat rates, starting at $8 per month.
Hiivala asked whether the stipend should be $10 per month. Daleiden wanted to look at the numbers and let the full County Board make the decision. Borrell commented that this BYOD Agreement could be revoked from an employee at any time; for example, if an employee doesn’t answer their phone.
Hawkins said the survey of 21 counties shows a range of $15 to $35 per month for basic phones. Daleiden said the data should be separated by basic phones and smart phones. Hiivala said a tier should also be added for tablets.
Borrell asked whether an employee is obligated to provide their cell phone number to clients. He suggested that employees provide their office number to clients, and forward calls to their cell phone. Partlow explained that calls cannot currently be transferred from internal phones to an external number. Swing said the technology is available to do that. Hawkins said department supervisors and employees can regulate which numbers are given to the public.
Hausmann said whether the BYOD program costs the same or results in a savings, there is inherent value if employees prefer it. Daleiden there would also be a savings if IT does not have to spend time coordinating the cell phone program.
Swing said IT is still responsible for syncing the phones. Daleiden said the syncing is only for smart phones, which will be minimal. He suggested a cell phone stipend of $10 and eliminating the tiered rating. Swing asked if the stipend for tablets could be retained in the BYOD Agreement. Daleiden said yes, but it should be made clear that the tablet program is not being implemented at this time. Hiivala said a tablet stipend should eventually be allowed. Daleiden said it would be due to MDM. The BYOD program will start with the Highway Department. Swing said the agreement is complete.
Hawkins asked if the cell phone stipend could be increased to $15 instead of $10, as it is taxed. He did not think many employees would take part for a $10 stipend. Daleiden agreed to try it.
Jobe noted that Item # 14 on the BYOD Agreement should read “I have read and will comply with Section 711.08c” versus 711.10. Swing noted the change.
Hawkins said his staff prepared a summary of proposed savings for the Highway Department for the budget meeting. Hiivala asked him to share that with the Commissioners. It could also be included in the Board packet. Hausmann said he would email it to Borrell and Daleiden.
Swing said the most complex bill is the phone bill because there are two carriers. Daleiden hoped that one carrier could be eliminated. Partlow concurred, saying Human Services is inclined to do so. Swing said one carrier provides better coverage than the other. Partlow said Human Services staff travels extensively throughout rural Wright County.
Hiivala said if an employee participates in the BYOD program and the County cancels their service, and the employee decides later to take part again, there may be a cost to reactivate. Daleiden said the employee should be required to make a one-year commitment. Hiivala clarified that the Agreement should state one year of employed service.
Daleiden asked Hawkins to send a copy of the 21-county survey to Kelly, Borrell and him.
Swing said he will send out a revised BYOD Agreement. Hausmann will send the summary to Swing, who will send it out to the Technology Committee members.
Recommendation: Adopt the Wright County BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Agreement, Rev 06 11-14-13, with initial implementation limited to Highway, Parks, and Surveyor Department employees.
(End of 11-13-13 Technology Committee Minutes)
Virgil Hawkins, Highway Engineer, requested Board approval of a resolution to advance $1,079,148 in State Aid Highway Funds for construction in 2014. Last year, $3.1 million was advanced. Potter moved to adopt Resolution #13-43, seconded by Daleiden, carried 5-0 on a roll call vote.
Hawkins requested approval of a Contract with Hagen Christensen & McILwain (HCM) Architects for Consulting Services to prepare a Public Works Facility Needs Assessment/Master Plan Study. Based on the recommendation of the Transportation Committee Of The Whole members on 7-09-13, Request For Proposals (RFP) for a space study were sent out that will assess the current and future space needs of the departments located at the Public Works Building site. RFP’s were received on 11-01-13 and reviewed by a workgroup. Based on the RFP’s and prior meetings held onsite with each firm, it was the consensus of the workgroup to recommend HCM Architects with a not-to-exceed amount of $29,500 plus incidentals up to and capped at $3,000. In response to Borrell, Hawkins stated that entering into the Contract does not commit the County to utilizing the vendor in the next phase. This will be just for the Study. Daleiden moved to approve the Contract, seconded by Potter, carried 5-0.
Hawkins requested the Board approve a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Metropolitan Council, Region 7W Transportation Policy Board (7W TBP), Wright and Sherburne Counties, and the Cities of Albertville, Elk River, Otsego, and St. Michael to conduct Federally required Metropolitan Planning activities. He read the following information in support of the request:
On 6-15-12, the Region 7W TBP was made aware of the U.S. Census Bureau’s updated list of urban areas based on the 2010 Census. With this announcement came the news that for the first time the Census Bureau extended the urbanized boundary of the Twin Cities metropolitan area beyond the legislatively defined seven-county boundary for the Metropolitan Council to include portions of Sherburne and Wright Counties, including areas within the Cities of Albertville, Elk River, Hanover (Wright County), Otsego, and St. Michael. Urbanized areas (UZA) are defined as contiguous urban areas with populations of 50,000 or more residents or urban clusters (UC) with populations of 2,500 to 49,999 residents. Under federal transportation planning laws, UZA’s are required to have a designated metropolitan planning organization (MPO) so transportation investments, especially those made with federal money, can be coordinated. The Metropolitan Council is designated as the MPO for the Twin Cities Metropolitan area by the Governor and in State law. A workgroup, consisting of staff and elected officials from each jurisdiction, has met five times between 7-25-12 and 10-01-13, culminating with the development of the MOU. Modeled after similar agreements prepared for other metropolitan areas, the MOU is intended to establish a communication and coordination framework for addressing the Metropolitan Council’s MPO transportation planning and programming responsibilities in the extended area. The MOU builds upon the existing practices and procedures of the Region 7W TBP to address the MPO structures of the region and the communities within the extended area. Region 7W will continue its existing role as the body that selects local projects for federal funding within the Wright and Sherburne portions of the MPO, which are also part of the Central MN ATP.
Daleiden said the Metropolitan Council has no interest in taking over transportation in Wright County; they are involved because of federally mandated requirements. The MOU states that everything will remain as is. The Metropolitan Council will communicate directly with the County but the funding remains as is at except for what is federally required. Husom said at one of the meetings, there was public concern about the Metropolitan Council taking over. She said Wright County is not joining the Metropolitan Council. The only involvement is as federal mandate dictates. Husom moved to adopt Resolution #13-44 approving the Memorandum of Understanding between the Metropolitan Council, Region 7W Transportation Policy Board, Wright and Sherburne Counties, and the Cities of Albertville, Elk River, Otsego, and St. Michael to conduct federally required Metropolitan Planning activities. The motion was seconded by Daleiden and carried 5-0 on a roll call vote.
Tabled from the 11-12-13 Board Meeting, Steve Berg, Emergency Management Coordinator, brought forth discussion on adopting a resolution and letter of commitment for funds for the Hazard Mitigation Plan Update Project. At that meeting, Berg presented bids from two companies for the update: SEH, $35,000 and Beck Disaster Recovery, $44,600. Since that time, Berg received a bid from the University of Minnesota, Duluth for $21,177. In researching why the bid is lower, he found that it was because the University utilizes students for research and data collection. The University has completed Plans for Brown, LeSueur, and Lake Counties. In checking, Berg found the Counties to be satisfied with the Plans, and the Plans were approved by FEMA. Berg stated he tried contacting the fourth company for a bid but did not hear back.
Daleiden asked whether Berg contacted Beck Disaster Recovery on why the cost to update the Plan went up so much. Berg said the original Hazard Mitigation Plan had a $24,700 flat fee. That did not include any of the County’s costs, which he estimated at $5,000-$7,000. Daleiden said Beck did not include the County’s costs in the update of the Plan. He said the amount of the update is about double the original cost. Daleiden and Husom supported using the University because of the cost and because of the experience it provides to students. In addition, there is a track record with the three Counties mentioned. Daleiden moved to approve using the University of Minnesota, Duluth, to update the Hazard Mitigation Plan in the amount of $20,177.00. The motion was seconded by Borrell and carried unanimously.
Bob Hiivala, Auditor/Treasurer, presented the October Revenue/Expenditure Budget Report. He drew attention to Page 13 where a $1 million transfer, approved by the Board, is reflected from the General Fund Reserves to Fund 34. Hiivala stated that this will reflect as an expense from the General Fund and as revenue in Fund 34. Sawatzke asked whether at the end of the year this type of transaction would not reflect as a balanced budget but the records would show the Board authorized the transfer. Hiivala then referred to Page 12, Fund 01-100-5710, Earnings on Investments at $1,133,336. The investments being bought are at a premium and there are large coupons involved. The policy being followed is to recoup the premium up front. In November, there will be about a $500,000 reduction in revenue because Hiivala is trying to tie the earnings to the appropriate year. He said the Report reflects that the County is doing really well on interest. There will be a significant adjustment down in November. Hiivala said the County is still receiving revenue in but it is not earnings. It is a return on premium from some of the investments. Hiivala said that in 2014 and 2015, the County will realize income from recouping some of these premiums. Potter referenced Page 12, Budget 100, Site Improvements, and asked whether more has been spent from this Line Item than what is being reflected. Lee Kelly, County Coordinator, said that there will be additional bills for the employee lunchroom. Hiivala said this represents the actual claims paid through October. Potter moved to accept the October Revenue/Expenditure Budget Report. The motion was seconded by Husom and carried 5-0.
Hiivala said the idea of a paperless accounts payable system was discussed as part of the Budget process and Leadership Team Meetings. Hiivala and Bill Swing, Information Technology Director, reviewed two vendors including RtVision and Edocument Resources and recommend approval of a contract with Edocument Resources for the purpose of review and design of the accounts payable system. Edocument Resources is working with Court Services and Human Services for the EDMS (Electronic Document Management System). It is felt that going with this vendor will allow the County to harness this same technology for accounts payable. The System will allow the review of bills and claims payments to be done electronically. The request is to approve the review and design process at a cost of $7,621 with funding from the Recorders Compliance Fund. Hiivala said Wright County is the first to move forward with this program and this will allow design work. The total cost of this project was estimated at $60,000 during the budget process, with an ongoing annual fee of approximately 15%. The verbal estimate received from Edocument Resources was $43,000 but other associated costs will include licensing of all departments. A contract will be presented at a future date. Hiivala said the purpose of the first phase is to identify the workflow needs and how business is conducted at Wright County. Edocument Resources will need to demonstrate that their product can meet these needs. The County will review this information and decide whether to continue. Daleiden moved to approve a contract with Edocument Resources in the amount of $7,621. The motion was seconded by Potter. Sawatzke asked whether this has been presented to the Technology Committee. Daleiden said it has not. Sawatzke said this type of request probably should be in case there are more in-depth questions. Hiivala noted that this process does not reside in the Auditor/Treasurer’s Office but will be department wide. The motion carried unanimously.
Kerry Saxton, SWCD, presented information on new grants that the SWCD Board is contemplating applying for that deal with 103E County Ditches and Cooperative Weed Management. The information reflects that the 2013 Minnesota Legislature appropriated Clean Water Funds to BWSR to be used for grants to local units of government to ensure compliance with Minnesota Statutes Chapter 103E (Drainage Law) and Sections 103F.401 to 103F.455 (State Soil Erosion Control provisions), including enforcement efforts. In response to this appropriation, BWSR created the Soil Erosion and Drainage Law Compliance Program. The purpose of the grants are to restore and protect surface water quality, particularly Impaired Waters, and to supplement local efforts to sustain clean water in Minnesota, by applying existing soil erosion reduction and drainage ditch statutes. There is $1,355,000 in Clean Water Funding available. Eligible applicants include Chapter 103E County and Watershed District Drainage Authorities, Counties, and Soil and Water Conservation Districts working in partnership with one or more eligible Counties or Watershed Districts.
Saxton then outlined the following Eligible Activities and Local Match Requirements:
Subprogram 1 – Soil Erosion
Eligible Activity; Description; Match Required
1a. Compliance checks and Enforcement of an existing county soil loss ordinance; Check for average annual cropland soil loss less than the maximum allowed by County ordinance to augment implementation of an existing county soil loss ordinance; 25%
1b. Compliance checks of USDA Highly Erodible Land (HEL) Plans and identification of corrective actions needed; Compliance spot checks for existing USDA Highly Erodible Land (HEL) plans. A proposal to conduct this activity will require clear definition of partnering with NRCS and FSA; 25%
1c. Development and adoption County soil loss ordinance; Planning and technical assistance for adoption of a county soil loss ordinance. This activity must result in the adoption of a county soil loss ordinance within the grant period; 25%
Subprogram 2 – Drainage Ditch Inventory and Inspection
Eligible Activity; Description; Match Required
2a. Inventory Chapter 103E drainage ditches that are Public Waters; Determine the status of compliance with the Section 103E.021 buffer strip requirement and the 50-ft. Shoreland Buffer Rule 6120.3300, Subpart 7 requirement for all drainage ditches in the drainage authority’s juridisction that are Public Waters. Develop a plan to enforce the applicable requirements; 25%
2b. Inventory Chapter 103E drainage ditches where erosion, sediment and/or nutrients contribute substantially to water quality degradation, and prioritize sites for side inlet control and/or buffer strip implementation; Inventory drainage systems and identify priority side inlet control and buffer strip needs for which the following authorities apply (grant funding for inventory(ies) only, not for practice establishment):
a. Section 103E.021 Subd. 6 Incremental Implementation of Vegetated Ditch Buffer Strips and Side Inlet Controls; and
b. Section 103E.011, Subd. 5 Use of External Sources of Funding;
2c. Inventory Chapter 103E drainage systems where erosion, sediment and/or nutrients contribute substantially to water quality degradation, and prioritize sites for storage and treatment implemation; Inventory drainage systems and identify priority wetland restoration or other drainage water storage and treatment opportunities within the watershed of the drainage system for which either of the following provisions apply (grant funding for inventory(ies) only, not for practice establishment):
a. Section 103E.701 Repairs, Subd. 6 Wetland Restoration and Replacements; Water Quality Protection and Improvement; and
b. Section 103E.011, Subd. 5 Use of External Sources of Funding.
2d. Develop an inspection plan and database for all Chapter 103E drainage ditch systems under the drainage authority’s jurisdiction to enhance drainage ditch inspection. (Does not include funding for drainage records scanning or data creation, nor for a drainage inspector; Facilitate compliance with the following provisions:
a. Section 103E.705 Repair Procedure, Subd. 1 Inspection, which requires inspection at a minimum every 5 years, and annually if there is a violation of Section 103E.021 until the violation is resolved.
b. Section 103E.705 Repair Procedure, Subd. 2 Permanent Strip of Perennial Vegetation Inspection and Compliance Notice, which requires the drainage authority to inspect applicable drainage ditches for violations of Section 103E.021.
c. Section 103E.067 Ditch Buffer Strip Annual Reporting, which is due from drainage authorities to BWSR by February 1 for data from the previous calendar year;
Subprogram 3 – Redetermination of Benefits and Drainage Ditch Buffer Strips
Eligible Activity; Description; Match Required
3a. Redetermine benefits and damages on Chapter 103E drainage ditch(es) and establish buffer strips for ditch systems with more than 80% of the drainage area within the current benefited lands of the ditch system, where an improvement project has not been petitioned, and where there are Impaired Waters and/or excess sediment accumulations. (Does not include funding for buffer strip right-of-way and establishment.); Redetermination of benefits and damages for Chapter 103E drainage ditch(es) not already having Section 103E.021 buffer strips, and ssociated establishment of ditch buffer strips in accordance with the following provisions:
a. Section 103E.351 Redetermination of Benefits and Damages;
b. Section 103E.021 Ditches Must Be Planted with Perennial Vegetation.
This activity must result in the redetermination being accomplished within the grant period;
(End of handout material information)
Saxton provided the following information on the activities:
Subprogram 1 - Soil Erosion:
Item 1a. The County is not eligible for 1a. Wright County does not have a soil loss ordinance. In studying of ditches and water quality, it has been found that the water quality is not good and a lot of this is tied back to agriculture. He said the State has ratcheted down on treatment plants in cities and there has been a close review of industry. He said agriculture has pretty much slid by. It is a voluntary program for the most part. The conclusion is that this is not working and they are looking at new ways to get agriculture to contribute more. A change has been seen in the agriculture industry in the last few years, with people farming much more land. Price has spurred getting more land into production.
Item 1b will not involve the County Board much. Work will be with the Natural Resources Conservation District to see what will be required for highly erodible land to get federal support. The NRCS does not have enough staff to look at this, so the State is offering grants to local agencies with matches. They will take a look at that program and try to obtain better compliance on the requirements.
Item 1c. Saxton said this relates to the development of a County soil loss ordinance. He is not advocating for or against an ordinance. He has heard complaints from property owners on sediment coming of their neighbor’s property. There is no ordinance to require landowners to meet any standard. It becomes a civil matter.
Saxton said the timing on grants is 12-13-13 so they must act soon to make application.
Subprogram 2 - Drainage Ditch:
Item 2a. Saxton said the County has very little in the way of buffer strip requirements. Wright County only has about 2.2 miles. He said this grant also ties into what is deemed as public waters. Some ditches could be considered public waters but not many. One may be on Ditch 31 as it flows through a lake. The lake would be considered public waters. He has not had time to research whether this relates to public waters or public water wetlands. Public water wetlands would include quite a few more areas. State law reflects that in those areas, a buffer of 50’ is required from any public water. Saxton said there may be a few violations in Wright County but not many. It is a State law and involves enforcement of the shoreland rules that counties agree to enforce. He said they would look to see how much area would fall under that rule. The State would like better compliance.
Item 2b. This grant relates to inventorying ditches (not fix them). Once ditches have been inventoried and the higher priorities established, there may be a different grant available to pay for a portion of the work. The work could also be done through the Ditch Authority and the entire Ditch would pay for the repairs. This grant also includes buffer strips. There is reference to incremental implementation of buffer strips, but Saxton is unsure what that means. It may relate to a program of trying to establish buffer strips during redetermination.
Item 2c. Saxton said they have tested a number of drainage ditches for water quality and they are exporting high nutrients. Ditch 10 has the best data. He said the interesting thing is that soluble nutrients are being transported. The wetlands are taking the sediment and the sediment attached nutrients. It is releasing the nutrient into the wetland and it comes out as a soluble. It is not seen in the water but it is immediately available to algae. They are looking to the use of sand filters as a solution versus dealing with multiple farmers. Those sites could be inventoried under this grant as well. There are no funds available under this grant for completing the work. Additional grants could be applied to in the future to get the sand filters installed.
Item 2d. The County is buying the DrainageDB Program, so this will be pretty much set up and done easily. A schedule could be developed to review the County’s ditches as required. They are supposed to be inspected every five years. Saxton said the State is curious about the buffer strips (are there buffers strips, what is their location, and how can they be obtained). The State is pushing for water quality. There are a number of new initiatives dealing with agriculture to try to get more done. Saxton referenced the Permanent Strip of Perennial Vegetation Inspection and Compliance Notice. He said there are some details that the State will have a problem with, as this is being done currently by law. A report is provided to the State on those where they are required. Saxton said the County has 2.2 miles involved and they have been there every year they have been inspected.
Item 3a. He said this may be of interest to the Board as work is being completed on some redeterminations of ditches. This grant may help pay for some redeterminations. It will not fund acquiring the buffer strip that is required. It will apply to such things as ditch viewers and attorney’s fees.
Saxton said the County would need to support some of these initiatives in order to do it. Borrell said he supported applying for these grants. The County Board can decide at a later date whether to accept the award if given. He referenced Ditch 14 and Ditch 15. He said Ditch 14 may not qualify as the redetermination has already been ordered. However, Ditch 15 may qualify. He asked when notice of the award would be expected. Saxton anticipates sometime around March, 2014. Sawatzke asked whether the application needs to include specific ditches or whether the County can simply apply for funding for redeterminations. Saxton said he has not had time to review the application but feels the more detail would be required. Saxton said Ditch 14 has been started so that is not eligible for grant funding. He referenced Ditches 7, 15, 31, and 32 and said they may be eligible. He is unsure whether the grant is applied for by ditch or whether one application can include multiple ditches.
Sawatzke asked Saxton for his perspective on which areas would have the most need and likely be the grants the County would be successful in obtaining. Saxton cited 2c and 2d as the best to proceed with to complete the inventories on sites that could be used to do the sand filters and/or areas seen with erosion problems. He referenced Ditch 15 and work completed in previous years on side inlets because of the large gulleys that came into the Ditch. He said the Ditch is deep and falls in quite dramatically. There is erosion in the area where the water flows into the Ditch every year. Saxton restated that he would recommend 2c and 2d. He was unsure where Wright County is on a soil loss ordinance. He said there are only seven counties in the State that have such an ordinance. He understands they are pretty successful and are complaint based.
Daleiden asked Saxton to confirm whether 2c, 2d, and 3a are the recommended grants to apply for. Saxton said those would be the ones he would look at the closest. Daleiden asked whether grant funding could be used toward the cost of a ditch inspector. Saxton said if the ditch inspector is completing the inventory, grant funding could be used to help pay those costs. Sawatzke referenced language in 2d, “Develop an inspection plan and database.” He said the plan may include walking the ditches every five years or walking 20% of the ditches every year. He said these are things that the County hasn’t gotten into yet as the ditch inspector in Wright County has not been hired yet. He said the information provided reflects that ditches should be reviewed every five years. Sawatzke suggested that it may become part of the plan to review 20% every year, walking the ditch from one end to another. Borrell said he is in favor of applying for the grants. He asked whether in the future the ditch inspector will apply for the grants or whether that will be completed through the SWCD. Saxton said he has not reviewed the information to be able to respond to whether the County can apply for grants directly. Daleiden said the County’s ditch inspector will need to work closely with the SWCD. Saxton said that is correct and felt the DrainageDB System will be of assistance to that person.
Daleiden moved to authorize the SWCD to apply for 2c, 2d, and 3a. If after review the SWCD finds something to apply for, it is recommended that the SWCD work with Hiivala on making sure it fits the County’s needs. The motion was seconded by Borrell. Husom stated there is community support for looking at redeterminations of ditches and benefited landowners as witnessed at the public meetings held. Saxton said that the records are old and things are done differently now. Sawatzke asked whether Saxton has adequate information from the Board to move forward. Saxton said he does. He will review the public waters definition, whether it includes public water or public water wetland. The motion carried 5-0. Daleiden stated that Saxton should discuss everything with Hiivala and Hiivala will need to make the final decision on what is applied for. Saxton reminded the Board that these are applications for funding that the County would have to accept, so there will be future opportunity for discussion.
Hiivala asked the Board to approve a temporary Liquor License for A.B.A.T.E. of Minnesota, Inc. (American Bikers for Awareness, Training, and Education). An annual event his held at the Rockford Township Hall. The application is for a one-day temporary Liquor License, which as been approved by the Sheriff, Attorney, and the Town Clerk and Chairperson of the Rockford Township Board. Potter moved to approve the Temporary License, seconded by Husom, carried 5-0.
Hiivala requested the Board schedule a Tax Forfeit Meeting. The County has received a request from the City of Howard Lake for a conveyance in lieu of forfeiture for an entire subdivision of residential lots. The developer would convey to the State. The City would then like to acquire these lots and re-convey them to promote affordable housing. Before moving ahead, the Tax Forfeit Committee should approve of the concept. Borrell moved to schedule a Tax Forfeit Committee Meeting on 12-03-13 at 8:15 A.M., Auditor’s Conference Room. The motion was seconded by Potter and carried 5-0.
The claims listing was reviewed. Borrell referenced a claim on Page 28 to Wenck Associates Inc. ($765.37) for plans and specifications for County Ditch 10. Hiivala stated that the claim relates to ditch viewing costs. He does not believe the County has received a bill relating to meeting costs. Daleiden referenced a claim on Page 14, Walmart Store which includes an expenditure of $57.67 for weight room supplies coded to operating supplies. Lt. Todd Hoffman said he believes this is for a vacuum. Daleiden questioned the funding source. Hoffman said that weight room supplies are paid out of various areas. Sawatzke recalled a claim presented a while back that was denied for a weight room related item. He stated there was a time when all of the costs in the weight room were not paid for by taxpayers. It was something the Sheriff’s Office put together. Lt. Hoffman said in the past, they have paid for items out of the Sheriff’s fund. Daleiden referenced claims on Page 13, SHI International Corporation ($13,942.91) and Streichers ($16,679.58) for new squad equipment. He asked whether that is for multiple squads or different equipment for each of the groups. Lt. Hoffman said the Sheriff’s Office is in the process of equipping two SUV squads. The equipment is purchased now so it is available when the vehicles arrive in February. Daleiden moved to approve the claims as listed in the abstract, subject to audit, for a total of $230,183.77 with 183 vendors and 267 transactions. The motion was seconded by Potter and carried 5-0.
Lee Kelly, County Coordinator, brought forth discussion on the Fourth Floor Security. Essentially no action was taken at the last Board meeting but more information and quotes have been obtained. He asked for Board direction on whether to discuss this at the County Board level or to refer the item back to the Building Committee. Daleiden said he would like this to continue moving forward. Information was received from the Purchasing Agent on panic buttons and the annual fee. It was the consensus that this item should be placed on the 12-03-13 County Board Agenda.
Daleiden asked Kelly to include discussion on Jail Showers on the next Building Committee Meeting Agenda.
The meeting adjourned at 10:13 A.M
NOVEMBER 26, 2013
The Wright County Board met in special session at 6:00 P.M. with Sawatzke, Borrell, Daleiden, Husom, and Potter present.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the proposed 2014 Budget and Taxable Certified Levy. The Assessor’s Office was open to assist with questions regarding individual property tax statements.
The following packet of documents was distributed:
1) Wright County Proposed 2014 Budget (Where It Comes From, Where It Goes, and How The Budget Is Spent);
2) Wright County 2014 Budget Departmental Net Operating Budgets With Prior Year Comparisons;
3) Wright County Expenditure Budget By Function;
4) Wright County Expenditure Budget By Classification;
5) How Your Property Taxes Are Determined;
6) An example of a proposed tax statement for 2014;
7) Sales And Use Tax Information; and
8) Wright County Tax Capacity By Class Of Property.
Bob Hiivala, Auditor/Treasurer, referenced the material, “How Your Property Taxes Are Determined.”
He said County residents should have received proposed property tax statements for 2014 indicating the value and classification of each parcel. The statement also details the amount of County taxes, city, schools and other taxes.
Hiivala said the County held budget sessions throughout the summer. The Assessor determined the value and classification of each property. Hiivala calculated the tax capacity of the County and multiplied that rate by the capacity for each property, which is noted on each statement. He said overall capacity for the County increased, resulting in a decrease in the tax rate. On the back of each proposed property tax statement is a disclosure of sales tax savings. The County realized a savings of $233,000 due to a decrease in the sales tax the County is required to pay next year.
Daleiden asked Hiivala to explain that proposed property tax statements arrived later this year due to State requirements related to sales tax. Hiivala said the statements were mailed out early last week. He said that met the deadline to mail them out. Hiivala said in general, the County tax rate went down. If the tax rate went up for some property owners, he suggested they determine whether there was a change in the valuation and classification of their properties.
Lee Kelly, County Coordinator, presented a 2014 Budget Summary. He said they added a few days to the regular budget process and dove more deeply into specifics. The budget process began in June when Department Heads submitted proposed budgets to the Board. There were ten days of meetings from July to September during which budgets were reviewed. The Board established a draft Budget and Certified Levy at the 9-10-13 County Board Meeting.
Kelly said the Total Budget is broken into three major funding categories: General Revenue, Road and Bridge, and Human Services (including Social Services and Public Health).
The General Revenue Fund was proposed at $53,006,636 for 2014, which is an increase of $1,053,684 or 2.03% from 2013. The proposed Road and Bridge Fund for 2014 decreased by $3,020,310, or -13.8% to $18,827,332. The Human Services Fund will increase by 6.2% to $25,775,357 for 2014.
Kelly said the two Lake Improvement Districts tax only those property owners who live within the districts. The proposed 2014 Budget for the Lake Pulaski District decreased by almost 50% to $36,550, and the Mink-Somers Lake Improvement District stayed the same at about $16,000.
Debt service decreased $5,130 to $4,693,593 for 2014, compared to $4,698,969 in 2013. The total proposed Budget is $102,355,468, which is a .48% decrease or $495,422 compared to the 2013 Budget of $102,850,890.
Hiivala provided a snapshot of the 2014 Levy. He referred to Page 3 of the handout, “Wright County 2014 Budget, Departmental Net Operating Budgets With Prior Year Comparisons.” He said this document discloses the operating budgets for the County and compares the Budgets from 2013 and 2014. He said the 2014 budgets listed are part of the General Fund. The Operating Fund for the General Fund Departments is $53,006,636. He also identified the revenue. The County received $19,293,832 as revenue. To balance the General Fund, the County needed to raise $33,712,804.
Road & Bridge Combined Funding Summary.
The expenditures for Road And Bridge are $18,827,332. With the State Aid Allotments, Grants and revenues of $10,922,875, the County needed to raise a Levy of $7,904,457.
Human Services Budget.
The 2014 Human Services Operating Budget is $25,775,357. Human Services revenues from grants, fees for services and other streams are expected to be $16,261,257. Therefore, the County needed to raise a Levy of $9,514,100. Hiivala said Debt Services generate no revenue, so that amount needs to be levied as well.
Hiivala said overall, the County Operating Levy is $55,877,504. The State has certified that the County will receive an increase in County Program Aid in 2014 to $5,286,542. Hiivala then takes the Operating Levy minus the County Program Aid to get a Net Spread Levy of $50,590,962. That is a .08 percent increase over 2013.
The meeting was opened for public comments.
Ray Schmidt of Buffalo Township asked where the Board Approved Revenues originate. Hiivala explained that Department Heads submitted budgets. The Board reviewed their estimates of revenues and expenditures. If a Department Head underestimated the trend for revenues, the Board increased them. Revenues come from grants, fees for services, licenses, and investment income, among others. “Board Approved” means that the Board adjusted the numbers submitted by the Department Heads.
Sawatzke referenced the Revenues – Board Approved on Page 3 by the Sheriff’s Department in the amount of $6,714,681. This is the amount that cities pay that contract with the Sheriff’s Department for policing. He also drew attention to Planning and Zoning, which generates revenue from building and sewer permits. The Assessor’s Department receives money from cities for assessing services.
Greg Kramber, County Assessor, said any property owners with questions about their taxes may meet with Assessing staff during the meeting on the second floor of the Government Center Annex building.
Anthony Kaster, of Plymouth, said he and his brother each own neighboring parcels in Marysville Township. Some of the acreage is tillable. In the past, they rented the land to local farmers. Since then, they converted to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and planted ten thousand trees. Kaster said he and his brother are not planning to sell to a developer. All the income from the property comes from the CRP rent that they receive from the Federal government. Their property taxes started to climb in 2006. He presented a chart illustrating the increases by year. Kaster said every year they receive double digit increases in their property taxes for this land. Since they are locked into the CRP contract, they cannot receive rents from farmers. Every year property taxes take more and more of the income from CRP. His taxes increased 19.5 percent. In 2007 his taxes went up 43%, then 33%. By 2010, they increased 55%. His income from CRP is $3,233. Taxes will take 99.6% of his income from the land this year, except for one dollar. His brother’s property is in a similar situation at 90%. Once the CRP contract expires, Kaster said they will be forced to plow up the land, rip out the trees and restore the land to row crop agriculture or timber harvesting just to pay the taxes. Currently the land preserves wildlife habitat, air and water quality.
Sawatzke asked about the increase in value. Kaster said his parcel’s value went from $338,000 to $370,000. His taxable market value went from $279,000 to $336,000.
Kramber said there are 55 tax classifications. Many factors affect Kaster’s property taxes. From 2006 to 2008, there was a recession and values went down. Montrose and Waverly experienced large reductions in the residential market. Some taxes shifted from residential property owners to agricultural property owners. In 2008 there were legislative changes in the Green Acres law, and the State started taking over the evaluation of Green Acres, based on five counties in southwestern Minnesota. Those counties realized large increases in agricultural values during those years. Property sales in those counties and in Wright County, as well as commodity prices, have caused increases in residential values.
Kramber said Kaster’s proposed property tax statement shows that his property is classified as agricultural nonhomestead, which pays twice what agricultural homestead property is assessed. Kramber said the combination of legislative changes regarding Green Acres, current legislation which does not allow the benefit of homesteading, a changing economy, shifting of taxes from residential to agricultural property, and budget changes all impact the amount that Kaster’s property is taxed.
Sawatzke asked if Agricultural Preserve Value is allowed in this case. Kramber said the taxable market value with the exclusions is less than the market value. The property must be receiving either Green Acres or Rural Preserve to fall into that category. Developers were eager to buy agricultural property in Montrose and Waverly in 2007 and 2008 when the economy changed. At that time, acreage in that area was selling for $25,000 to $30,000 per acre. By contrast, land in Otsego sold from $70,000 to $90,000 per acre. In the past, agricultural values were $1,000 to $2,000 per acre. Currently they are $5,000 to $6,000 per acre or more. Agricultural property owners in Minnesota are paying higher taxes due to the rise in values.
Kramber said the residential market is also heating up. His staff is working on the 2014 assessments for taxes due and payable in 2015. Kramber said many areas will see a 10 to 15 percent increase in values. He offered to discuss Kaster’s situation with him further on an individual basis. Kramber said he empathizes with agricultural property owners. Kramber said he and his staff are valuing and classifying property to the best of their abilities.
Kramber said Randy DesMarais is the assessor for Marysville Township, and has been working in that area for 30 years. Kramber said if property owners have any questions, he and his staff will be happy to talk with them and any other experts.
Sawatzke said the County increased the levy less than 1/10 of one percent. If everything else was equal, Kaster’s increase would be similar. Other property owners will see a decrease in taxes in part because agricultural property owners experienced an increase. Daleiden said the Minnesota property tax classification system is a function of the State and is very complicated. He encouraged Kaster to contact his State legislators.
Jeff Drews of Buffalo said he has several rental properties in the Buffalo and Montrose areas. Drews said he purchased each property in the last six months for market value, at about $60,000 each. His proposed tax statement says the market value of these properties is $120,000 to $130,000. Drews said he has seen a thirty percent increase in his taxes for each property.
Kramber said notices of evaluation meetings will be sent held in April and May of 2014. The first round of evaluation notices will be sent at the end of March 2014. Sawatzke said property owners will be notified regarding the value of their properties as appraised on January 2, 2014. Meetings will be held after that around the County when taxpayers may meet with officials to discuss whether their properties are valued fairly compared to surrounding properties of similar quality and size.
Drews asked why his market value doesn’t reflect what he actually paid within the last year. Sawatzke asked if Drews bought the properties from a bank. Drews replied that some of them were bank owned. Sawatzke said some banks will sell foreclosed properties for less to diminish their inventory. Potter interjected that the State uses square footage and comparable properties to determine market value. The property must be within 90 to 105% of true market value and not necessarily what the buyer paid for it.
Kramber spoke regarding the time frame within which the Assessor staff worked. They looked at properties that sold between October 2011 and September 2012. That data is analyzed for the January 2013 assessment for taxes due and payable in 2014. With that lag, the values are quite behind the current market. If you had a sale in 2013, the market values as stated on your proposed tax statement are based on information from a year or more ago. With bank or foreclosure sales, most people investing in real estate are not buying at full market. Assessor staff finds many properties that sell for less than their true value. The term “market value” refers to a transaction between a willing buyer and a willing seller without duress. That is not the case with bank sales. The Assessor staff sees properties listed on the open market, but in many cases, the properties are damaged. Former owners leave faucets running before they leave, remove cupboards and kick holes in the walls. If staff is not able to get into the home, values are determined on what they are able to see. Staff visits every property in the County once every five years. If a property was seen four years ago, and the condition changed, Assessor staff would have no way of knowing that.
Drews said he did not see his value go down in Montrose. Kramber said a few years ago the County reduced residential values in that area by more than 15% based on the decrease in sale prices. Kramber offered to get data from the local assessor regarding Drews’ properties and review the information with him.
Borrell said developers are trying to sell land for pennies on the dollar in that area. He said if every transaction is distressed, the lower prices must represent market value. Kramber said he and his staff treat values in that situation similarly. It depends on the sales prices of comparable properties. Kramber said his Department received a published directive that said if a group of traditional arms length transactions contains bank sales, but the bank owned properties do not sell at market value, then bank sales should not be given any weight. However, if a group of transactions contains many bank sales within a depressed area, the bank sale prices may be construed as a market.
Kramber explained the appeals process. One avenue of appeals remains for taxes due and payable in 2014. The Assessor Department sent out valuation notices for 2013 property taxes due and payable in 2014 last March and April. Local Board of Appeals and Board of Equalization meetings were held in each District in April and May. If a property owner attends one of those meetings and appeals the classification or value of their property, but do not get the satisfaction they seek, they may come to the County Board of Equalization meeting in June to make a plea. Information about the appeals process is available at the County Assessor Office and the Minnesota Department of Revenue website. The third and final step is through the Minnesota Tax Board. He directed people to the County website and the Minnesota Tax Court website. The deadline for filing a court action against the Assessor is April 30, 2014.
Ray Schmidt, Buffalo, said he owns several agricultural properties. None experienced less than a 10% increase. He showed a photo of a 40 acre landlocked parcel, comprised of half swamp and half woods. The estimated market value dropped from $127,000 to $108,000, however, the taxable market value rose from $55,000 to $108,000. He did not understand how that could happen. His taxes went up 86% from $596 to $1,110. The land is non-tillable.
Kramber said a value was excluded from a previous year. Perhaps it was Green Acres or Rural Preserve. Nothing is on record for the current year. Schmidt said it was changed over to Rural Preserve. He said he met with staff in the Assessor’s Office about all his properties. Kramber suggested he speak with an Assessor staff member who was on hand during this meeting.
Tom McGregor of Maple Lake thanked the Board for rejecting many new spending requests for 2014. He directed their attention to the 2014 Budget: General Government – Payments In Lieu Of Property Taxes, Line 5271. He looked at Budget years 2010, 2011, and 2012. Each year, that line item was budgeted at $58,000. When he looked at the actual revenues paid by the State (as stated on the Expense and Revenue report), the State appears to have paid $256,580 in 2010.
Sawatzke clarified that McGregor did not get the above information from the handouts distributed at this meeting. McGregor said he obtained this data from the 2014 Budget, Budget 100, Line Item 5271. In 2011, the County budgeted $58,000 and was actually paid $170,624. In 2012, the County budgeted $58,000 and the State paid $157,489. This year the Budget amount was increased to $75,000. McGregor asked why the County did not budget a higher amount. He asked whether the State’s contribution for this year was known.
Borrell said he thought the County raised that line item to $100,000. Sawatzke said that concurred with his information. McGregor asked why the County did not budget $150,000. The difference is about $410,000 over the last three years. Daleiden said the Board looked at last year’s numbers and decided $100,000 was best.
McGregor asked whether the extra revenue is returned to the State or utilized elsewhere. Sawatzke said the additional revenue would go to the Reserve Fund at the end of the year. Borrell commended the County Department Heads for collectively returning $3.2 million in unspent funds last year. McGregor said tax payers never seem to benefit from the savings.
McGregor turned to the Personal Services account in the General Government section of the Budget, Line Item 6100. In 2012, $300,000 was budgeted, but none of it was spent. In 2013, $56,000 was budgeted but not spent. In 2014, $250,000 is budgeted, an increase of $195,000 or more than 300%.
Sawatzke said that is not an accurate representation of what happened. He said the $250,000 figure McGregor quoted will be reduced to $30,000 to $50,000 at the end of the year. Sawatzke explained that money is withdrawn from that account and put in actual budgets when employees get step increases or Cost Of Living Adjustments (COLAs). For example, next year, employees are getting a one percent general salary adjustment. If an employee makes $50,000, one percent of that is $500. Consequently, $500 will go from this Fund to the employee’s Department budget. Multiply that transfer by 700 employees to all the County Department budgets. At the beginning of last year, the County had $1 million in that Fund. This year there is $250,000. The Fund started last year with $1 million to prepare for potential costs from the classification study.
Kelly said the $56,000 McGregor referred to is the remainder after the County transferred funds to cover the classification study, employee step increases, and COLAs. For future years, Kelly said he and Hiivala added a “pre-approved” column. Now the Board is trying to focus on Personal Services since they have an accurate estimate on the cost of step increases and COLAs. However, adjustments may be needed on the Personal Services Line Item.
McGregor moved to the Site Improvements Line Item, which was increased by $100,000 or 40%. He said at the end of the third quarter the County had only spent 21%, or $53,000 out of the budgeted amount of $250,000. He asked what projects at the Government Center justified spending a quarter of a million dollars.
Sawatzke responded that some anticipated expenditures for site improvements are unknown. For example, the Information Technology Department will be expanding into the current first floor lunchroom. Daleiden asked whether the cost to replace an elevator was included in this line item. Kelly said it would be an appropriate expense for that line item. Kelly added that he did not believe the cost of expanding the Information Technology Department office space was reflected in the 21% referred to by McGregor. Kelly said the last time he looked at the Budget, funds in this line item were at 35% expended. This line item relates to any remodeling needed to change the size of offices. There are space needs within the Government Center that need to be addressed. If there is a major equipment failure, such as a boiler or elevator, those items are also covered under this line item.
Potter said another expense in this line item is tuck pointing for the windows at the Government Center. That cost is $150,000. It hasn’t been done in ten years, and may need to be done in the near future.
Layne Roschen from St. Michael commended the Board for positive actions over the course of the last year. He expressed several concerns. Roschen said that the core functions of government are increasing far greater than the rate of inflation. General Government is up 4%, Public Safety increased by 4%, Human Services is up 6%, Culture and Recreation went up 4%, and Public Health increased 8%. The median income for the average citizen is far below 2008 levels. Roschen questioned whether people are better off having dollars in their pocket, or whether the government should decide where the dollars should be spent. He rejects the notion that the government knows how to spend money more wisely than citizens. He said the County is better than most. Roschen said if people have to continue to reduce their spending, small businesses that drive the County’s economy will suffer. He asked why the 2014 Budget reflects increases that are multiple times the rate of inflation.
Potter said the County Budget is impacted by mandates set by legislators in St. Paul and Washington, D.C. Sawatzke said the County was required to hire six people in Human Services in order to implement the Affordable Care Act and accommodate residents who want to sign up. Between benefits and salary, the cost is roughly a quarter of a million dollars to the County. The new MN Choices program required a total of six new employees. That brings the County’s cost to nearly a half million dollars, due to new Federal and State programs. They provide most of the funds to implement these programs, but the amount Roschen mentioned is part of the overall Budget. There are other areas of the Budget where the revenues are indicated that offset as much as 75% of those costs. Property taxes have to make up the remaining 25%. Potter said the County has no say in the matter, but must comply.
Roschen asked whether the Board has studied all the State and Federal mandates, determined which are causing the most budgetary or philosophical problems, and brought them to the attention of legislators. Sawatzke responded that the Association of Minnesota Counties frequently presents issues to legislators. He said the County is scrutinized closely, especially in the Human Services realm. The State runs those services.
Roschen said the County has been more transparent in the last few years. He said there needs to be more clarity on the County website, however, especially regarding meeting times and dates. He added that there should have been a bold announcement posted on the County website stating the time and date of tonight’s meeting.
Borrell said the County website will be totally redesigned. Daleiden said the way meetings are listed will be changed to make it easier to find. Husom said the Board is trying to make the information more accessible.
McGregor turned to the topic of liability insurance. He said this year it cost the County $920,000 from the General Fund. In 2012, there was an $800,000 rebate. He asked where that money shows up in the Budget.
Kelly said Miscellaneous Revenue was budgeted at roughly $530,000. Sawatzke clarified that the County budgeted $580,000 for next year, and $530,000 for this year. Potter said the Board increased it from $531,000 to $580,000.
Sawatzke said the rebate is a large portion of the $580,000 figure. The dividend was for liability insurance, workers compensation and other insurances combined through the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental
Trust (MCIT). McGregor asked if anything over the $580,000 goes into the Reserve Fund. Sawatzke said generally, yes, presuming other items of the Budget aren’t over spent.
Potter asked Sawatzke if the Board ever used some of the money to reduce the levy in the past. Sawatzke said this year the Board took $1 million and put it into a Technology fund. The past Board used that money to reduce the 2013 levy. The County is using money saved this year and putting it toward 2014 expenditures so they do not have to be levied.
Regarding MNsure, McGregor said he understood three positions have already been added. Sawatzke and Partlow confirmed that six positions were authorized. Sawatzke said six positions were included in the 2014 Budget that was not in the 2013 Budget.
McGregor asked what justification was there for hiring this number of positions, even with a mandate. Sawatzke said the Board debated that question. Husom said the Board approved the positions based on data regarding the projected increase in cases that each position could handle. McGregor asked how many cases are estimated with Mnsure. Partlow said they estimate about 7,000 more cases. Husom said people who qualify for the Affordable Care Act will also be considered for Federal services if they meet the criteria. She said eventually the need for workers will decrease as redundancies in programs and services are reduced.
Sawatzke clarified that MnChoices is the Minnesota State program, and MNsure is the Affordable Care Act (Federal) program. He said a discussion about the number of positions is detailed in minutes from one of the Human Services Board meetings in June 2013. McGregor asked whether the numbers for the Affordable Care Act have materialized. Partlow said she was not 100% sure.
McGregor asked regarding health care costs. From 2005 to 2014, budgeted health care costs have risen 110%. He referenced Line Item 6153, Budgeted County Share Insurance. It has become apparent that more than 2/3 of County employees get their health care insurance paid for completely. McGregor said the day of free health care is over. He asked what the Board is doing to reduce this expense, as it costs County taxpayers $5 million per year.
Sawatzke said in 2014, employees may have to start paying more for health care premiums. He did not specify an amount, as the amount of the premium increase is not yet known. Sawatzke said the goal is to encourage employees to use a lower cost plan so the County saves money. The County is currently negotiating on this issue with the unions. It is being phased in the next contract and will continue with following contracts. If the County doesn’t make significant changes by 2018, the Affordable Care Act will fine the County heavily. Potter said the County would be subject to an excise tax or fee from $200,000 to $500,000. Husom said the Federal government would impose a tax on the County for having a good plan. Daleiden was not optimistic that a lower cost plan would be successfully negotiated in 2014. Sawatzke said the Board is committed to working that out.
McGregor said the County pays $945 for single coverage. Sawatzke said the cost of single coverage will be about the same. Some employees may have to pay a portion of their coverage for the first time. Employees with family coverage pay significant premiums already.
Sawatzke thanked everyone who attended for their outstanding comments. Final action on the 2014 Budget and Taxable Certified Levy will be taken at the 12-03-13 Wright County Board Meeting. Daleiden commented that in 2011 the County there were only three other counties (of 87 counties) in the State ranked more conservative than Wright County. In 2010 only two other counties in the State were ranked more conservative. Daleiden said the past board was very conservative with dollars.
The meeting adjourned at 7:32 P.M.
Bills Approved
Adult & Pediatric Urology $967.95
Allina Health EMS 880.78
Ameripride Services 327.05
Anoka County Corrections 20,038.00
Assembled Products Corp 190.00
Association of MN Counties 2,100.00
Astleford International 9,175.09
Baertschi/Paul 155.00
Barnes Distribution 572.78
Benton County Sheriff 1,540.00
BP Amoco 1,010.23
Buffalo Auto Value 447.16
Center Point Energy 765.80
Centra Sota Coop. - Buffalo 6,846.66
CenturyLink 133.32
Chamberlain Oil Co 887.83
Climate Air 10,911.02
Comm. of Transportation 2,620.68
CPS Technology Solutions 3,021.23
CST Distribution LLC 1,203.88
Dell Marketing LP 2,033.55
Design Elect.-Cold Spring Elec. 1,080.25
Dotolo/John 887.55
Duraco Inc 113.77
Emergency Auto. Tech Inc 6,357.65
Emergent Networks 1,560.00
Evident Crime Scene Products 116.00
Farm-rite Equipment Inc 175.35
Fastenal Company 121.85
Fleet Computing International 775.00
Force America Inc 3,120.22
GCS Service Inc 235.16
General Office Products Co. 747.26
Grainger 130.36
Granite Pest Control Services 126.32
Health Care Logistics Inc 297.41
Hillyard Inc - Minneapolis 812.25
Howard/Jolanta 400.00
Integrated Fire & Security 2,059.17
IP Controls LLC 4,312.50
Jenny Manthey 119.07
Jore/Dale 110.20
Keaveny LTC Pharmacy 3,417.27
Lacount Sales LLC 267.52
Law Enforcement Targets Inc 1,192.69
Loberg Electric 170.50
M-R Sign Company Inc 280.22
MAAO Region 3 100.00
Marco Inc 1,396.10
Mariposa Publishing 235.13
Martin-McAllisters Consulting 450.00
Menards - Buffalo 123.96
Mid-America Business Sy.s 4,488.75
Midwest Forensic Path. PA 1,400.00
Midwest Safety Counselors Inc 329.94
Minnesota CLE 210.00
Mountain Stream Sports/Apparel 185.22
NADA Appraisal Guides 196.00
Office Depot 2,160.96
Peterson’s Towing & Recovery 374.06
Pope Douglas Solid Waste 187.20
Ridley/Glenda 824.46
RS Eden 1,581.27
Russell Security Resource Inc 163.25
Safelite Fulfillment Inc 242.62
SHI International Corp 13,942.91
Sprint 6,209.05
Sprint 2,330.95
SRF Consulting Group Inc 7,204.65
St Cloud Hospital 623.45
Streichers 16,679.58
Total Printing 368.72
Towmaster 1,189.51
Verizon Wireless 100.00
W D Larson Companies Ltd 799.79
Walmart Store 01-1577 1,030.21
Wenck Associates Inc 765.37
West Payment Center 152.83
Wright County Highway Dept 59,513.38
Wright County Surveyor 450.00
Wright Hennepin Coop Elec 5,559.41
Wright Hennepin Electric 1,277.94
Xcel Energy 1,038.68
33 Payments less than $100 1,484.87
Final total $230,183.77
Published in the Herald Journal Dec. 30, 2013.

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