ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Crow Wing County Board: County schedules 3rd Unorganized meeting

The Crow Wing County Board will host a third meeting concerning the potential for an increase to township property taxes for First Assessment District residents.

A graph prepared by County Engineer Tim Bray shows by 2021, available funds in the First Assessment District (Unorganized Territory) will no longer support road construction costs. Source: Crow Wing County
A graph prepared by County Engineer Tim Bray shows by 2021, available funds in the First Assessment District (Unorganized Territory) will no longer support road construction costs. Source: Crow Wing County

The Crow Wing County Board will host a third meeting concerning the potential for an increase to township property taxes for First Assessment District residents.

The board agreed to meet at 6:30 p.m. July 17 in meeting rooms 1 and 2 in the land services building, 322 Laurel St., Brainerd. The county board acts as the township board for the First Assessment District in absence of an elected township government.

The meeting was scheduled far enough in advance to allow for time to mail postcards to all residents. A previous notification effort was bungled by the county, when a combination of mail class and printer timing caused letters to arrive too late for many of those affected.

The subject of the meeting concerns an impending funding crunch for road improvements in the First Assessment District, otherwise known as Unorganized Territory.

To fully fund road construction and preservation assumed necessary to deliver a level of service comparable to that provided by the county and other area municipalities, it is likely a three- to four-year period of significant property tax increases will be needed to fund a 2021 construction season, a news release stated. Possible ranges are from 12-18 percent annually. This may be followed by more moderate increases of 4-5 percent annually over the next six to seven years.

ADVERTISEMENT

The First Assessment District roadway system is a complex network encompassing nearly 60 miles of public and semi-public roadways, the release stated. Crow Wing County has the authority and responsibility to maintain these public facilities.

Like in other townships, Unorganized Territory residents pay a separate township level property tax to fund government services within its jurisdiction. This is in addition to county level and school district level taxes.

Crow Wing County does not subsidize the First Assessment District or other townships for infrastructure needs. State statute prohibits use of county sales tax revenue for township roadway construction and maintenance. Township property taxes are currently the only source of revenue to fund all activities necessary to properly maintain the First Assessment District roadway system.

Before an overhaul of the county's financial practices, lax accounting led to incorrect billing to township funds-meaning work completed exclusively for township resources was sometimes paid for from the county's revenue, rather than that collected at the township level. This led to a large fund balance, which at its peak topped $3 million, of unspent tax dollars. The construction scheduled for completion through 2020 will be paid for from this fund, drawing it down to 30 percent of the township's overall budget.

All construction projects promised to the public in the current highway improvement plan will be delivered, according to County Engineer Tim Bray. But there remains a long list of First Assessment District roadways in need of major repair.

In other business, the county board:

Heard from Jeff Czeczok, a Brainerd resident, who voiced concerns during open forum with the county board's committee meeting structure. Czeczok questioned whether the board was in compliance with open meeting law, because a quorum of the board serves on both the personnel and budget committees. He also questioned whether the board took action at these meetings, pointing to last week's committee of the whole meeting. Czeczok argued the board took action by indicating to Land Services Director Gary Griffin they did not wish to assume enforcement of the state buffer law.

County Administrator Tim Houle stated the county provides public notice to the budget and personnel meetings, and they are included on the board's official calendar approved at the beginning of each year. Houle also stated the absence of action is distinctive from taking a vote.

ADVERTISEMENT

Following the meeting, Houle said the county has consulted with the Minnesota Department of Administration concerning its practices, and was assured it was compliant with open meeting law.

Received a report from Tom Suppes, risk management consultant, on the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust. The trust is a "joint powers entity made up of counties and associated public entities that pool resources to provide property, casualty and workers' compensation coverage to members, along with risk management and loss control services."

Approved grant funding from the state for the Crow Wing County Bomb Squad. The agreement provides $80,000 in funding-$72,000 to purchase a van and $8,000 for training of three bomb technicians in anticipation of Super Bowl XXVI. The funds were left over from the 2015 grant year, when some agencies turned back some of their funding.

Accepted a $5,000 donation from Disabled American Veterans Chapter 22 to be used toward the purchase of a new small van for the veterans service office.

Approved the hiring of Ashley Rystad, technical/administrative specialist, land services; Jennifer Froderman, social worker, community services; and Kristen Strand, financial worker, community services.

Accepted the promotion of Dan Schad to full-time deputy. Replacement staffing was approved for a part-time deputy.

Accepted the departures of Ashley Hines, correctional officer, and Yvette Anez, public health nurse. Replacement staffing was approved for a correctional officer and either a public health nurse or a social worker.

Entered closed session concerning pending litigation. The litigation discussed is the lawsuit against the board pursued by County Attorney Don Ryan over his office's budget.

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
What To Read Next
Get Local

ADVERTISEMENT