Cass County Board: County officials honor outgoing commissioner Downham

Downham served as county commissioner for 14 years.

Commissioner Neal Gaalswyk (left) presents Certificate of Appreciation to outgoing Commissioner Dick Downham. Picture by Josh Stevenson.

BACKUS — After 14 years of service on the Cass County Board of Commissioners, Dick Downham is saying goodbye.

Commissioner Neal Gaalswyk presented a plaque of service to Downham at the Tuesday, Dec. 15, Cass County Board meeting. Downham said it had been a pleasure to work alongside the other commissioners and wished the incoming commissioner, Rick Haaland, well. Gaalswyk shared his appreciation for Downham’s service and knowledge over the years and thanked him for volunteering to serve on one of the citizen committees.

County Administrator Josh Stevenson requested for the board to motion and approve the compensation of elected officials at an annual salary of $28,396.82, a 3% cost of living increase over the 2020 annual salary. The per diem payment is to remain the same as prior years at $75 per day for attendance at approved meetings. The board appointed citizen committee per diem rate will also remain the same as 2020 at $75 per day with the exception of the planning commission, which is $150 per day.

There was discussion whether the planning commission should have a varying rate depending on the meeting as some meetings are shorter than others and maybe the per diem should only be paid at the $75 per day rate. Staff noted even with some meetings being short, others are rather long and those residents on the committee are being asked to do research on their own time and not getting compensated for that.

Salaries for the elected officials County Attorney Ben Lindstrom, Sheriff Tom Burch and County Recorder Katie Norby were also approved. They will all receive a 3% increase Jan. 1, putting Lindstrom at $123,448 per year, Burch at $119,870.40 per year and Norby at $84,073.60 per year. Lindstrom will also receive an additional 3% increase July 1 when he moves from Step 7 to Step 8 on the county pay scale.


Chief Financial Officer Sandra Norikane also presented the 2021 property tax levy by fund; revenues and expenditures by fund; equipment list by fund; fee schedule; published budget and the 2020 indirect cost transfers.

The board approved the proposed levy with an increase of 0.94% over the 2020 levy, for a total levy amount of $23,411,563, with Longville Ambulance Service District area property owners included as required by state law. The final levy was reduced by almost 2% due to use of fund balances by various departments and by utilizing the sheriff’s revolving equipment fund.

The approved Cass 2021 budget, including state, federal and other revenues, calls for $61,429,144 in revenue and $61,633,169 in expenditures. The departments requesting higher expenditures than revenue are general revenue and the health, human and veterans services.

The board approved the annual new equipment purchase list, totaling $1,974,573. It includes computer equipment and software, office furniture, vehicles and equipment maintenance agreements. It was also noted the sheriff’s department equipment budget went down due to the department having a revolving equipment fund. The department is utilizing some of the reserves from that fund to help reduce the levy.

Norikane also presented an updated fee schedule for 2021 to be approved by the board. Some of the increases reported were for duplicate tax statements, the child and teen checkup and various items in solid waste.

In other business, the county board:

Approved a three year service agreement and three year lease with the Cass County Economic Development Corporation at a rate of $50,000 per year.

Authorized Human, Health and Veterans Services to collaborate with Blue Plus in hosting a community baby shower next summer in which Blue Plus will donate $500 for refreshments and also provide gift bags to all mothers attending.


Discussed the recently passed relief fund by the state, noting the county will only be receiving about $572,000 this time around. Norikane stated this time they are hoping to speed up the application and payment process by having the board approve both at its meetings. It was also noted this grant is more flexible in what items are approved for payment.

The next meetings are as follows: Commissioner’s board meeting, 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 5; and commissioner’s board meeting, 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19. All meetings will be at the Land Department meeting room in Backus unless otherwise noted.

Cass County Courthouse

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