Cass County Board seeks transition aid from state

WALKER - Cass County Commissioners approved two resolutions Tuesday in response to issues raised at an Oct. 28 Association of Minnesota Counties legislative issues meeting they attended in Bemidji.

WALKER - Cass County Commissioners approved two resolutions Tuesday in response to issues raised at an Oct. 28 Association of Minnesota Counties legislative issues meeting they attended in Bemidji.

The first resolution calls for the state to pay counties and townships transition aid, thereby treating those units of government similarly to the manner in which transition aid has been paid to school districts.

Currently, various utility companies have a case in tax court, arguing their properties have been overvalued under state property value formulas and, therefore, they have been overpaying property taxes. Should the court decide in the utilities' favor, counties and townships would have to refund some of the utilities' past and current property taxes and would stand to receive less tax in future years.

This resolution asks for state transition aid, so the whole refund would not have to come as a huge lump sum in one year from counties and towns alone. The transition aide also could help cover future tax revenue lost to counties and towns by setting lower property values for future tax year calculations.

Board Chair Neal Gaalswyk noted a variety of utilities cross the state. Oil and gas pipeline and electric power lines are examples of utilities crossing Cass County. Cass commissioners supported in their second resolution Tuesday an AMC position calling for the state to use a new formula to distribute equalization state aid paid to counties.


Counties get a program aid to help the state pay some toward the county providing what are classed as essential services. Those include public safety, human services, transportation and other state-mandated services.

In addition, the state enhances its program aid contribution, distributed by a formula, to help some counties more than others to provide these essential services. Cass has a high property value, so currently does not qualify to get any of this equalization aid. The current equalization formula does not recognize the county also has a high poverty rate, or provides services to a high number of non-residents.

The proposed AMC formula change would recognize some of these factors, enabling Cass to qualify for over 50 percent more program aid through equalization in 2016 than it now qualifies to receive.

Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust noted in its 2014 annual report to Cass County that MCIT celebrated 35 years of offering participation in its insurance pool. The MCIT offers workers' compensation and property/casualty coverage to participating county members, covering most of Minnesota's counties. It also offers employee safety training and legal counsel for counties involving insured issues in lawsuits.

Cass commissioners received notice the city of Pillager intends to create a tax increment financing district for The Crossing residential housing area and the city of Walker intends to amend its tax increment financing district for the Tianna development area.

Health, Human and Veterans Services spent 73.27 percent of its budget after 75 percent of 2015.

Costs for out-of-home child placement during the same period have hit 108 percent of budget.

The county share of out-of-home placement costs hit 116 percent. The number of children in placement per month has gone from 56 in some months last year to 89 in some months this year. Foster care and correctional facility costs ran about double this year compared with last year during 75 percent of the year.


The commissioners reported all county department heads and the county administrator achieved the requirements of their positions after the commissioners interviewed each person separately during closed board meetings Oct. 20 and 27.

Immanuel Lutheran Church of Walker donated 15 quilts to HHVS, to be used at the county's discretion.

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