WALKER — Four residents attended the Cass County truth in taxation 6 p.m. public hearing Thursday, Dec. 6, and none offered comments on the proposed 2020 budget, levy or fee schedule.
One person asked how the county decides where to invest its money. Chief Financial Officer Sandra Norikane said there are laws strictly limiting counties’ choices to investments safe enough that any loss of levy money is very unlikely. Interest earned may be lower than if the county were allowed to make higher risk investments, she said.
Administrator Joshua Stevenson reported he did receive one resident letter, which opposed all of the increases proposed for zoning permit fees.
Commissioners will vote on the 2020 budget and levy at their next meeting scheduled 9 a.m. Dec. 17.
During the regular commissioners meeting in the afternoon preceding the hearing, Norikane reported on court cases involving utility company property valuations used to compute property taxes due to local governments. Lake County Power’s appeal was settled with a 4% reduction in that company’s values for years 2016 through 2019.
Norikane said the county’s receipts for 2020 will be reduced by the amount lowered for those years. In turn, the levies the county collects for townships and cities and schools in the affected area will also be reduced. This will have a major impact on some townships, she warned. They will not receive the full amount they levy, because it will be reduced by the amount of lowered Lake Country taxes from the prior years.
The tax court appeals from Enbridge Energy and Great Lakes Gas are still moving through the court system. She predicted some of the appeals may end up in the Minnesota Supreme Court.
“I don’t think we are going to come out ahead on this,” she predicted.
In other business, the commissioners:
Approved closing county offices at 3 p.m. Dec. 24 and 31 and all day Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 for the holidays.
Learned storm damage from the Oct. 21 and 22 event for utility companies and the county highway department was $71,383, which qualifies the county to apply for 75% state disaster relief.
Approved increasing the per student rate charged for Cass County students to attend a Deep Portage Learning Center program from $50 to $60 per student. The rate had not changed since the program started in 2004. About 300 students attend each year, according to Director Dale Yerger. Students from Pine River, Walker-Hackensack-Akeley and Northland Remer-Longville as well as some home schooled children attend each year. Some years, Bug O Nay Ge Shig and Cass Lake also send children, Yerger said.
Appointed Dr. Kelly Mills and her company, River Valley Forensic Services, to succeed Dr. Michael McGee as medical examiner in 2020. She will continue to perform autopsies at the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office. The 2020 rate will be $250 per month, plus $2,000 for a complete autopsy with basic toxicology and external examination with basic toxicology for $1,000. Court preparation and out of office charges will be at $300 per hour. The county will continue to be responsible for delivering bodies and returning them to Cass County.
Learned the county will receive a $182,660 dividend from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust for 2019.
Approved applying for a Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Fund grant to conduct Phase 1 of an archeological study of a site on county administered land in Moose Lake Township. It is believed a logging railroad turntable was once located in that area.
Authorized Norma Hanson to repurchase property in the city of Bena by paying back taxes, current taxes, penalties and interest of $535.37.
Learned loggers paid $92,168 for 3,178 cords of timber on five of seven tracts offered for sale at a Nov. 21 county auction.
Designated as mailed ballot precincts all those within the unorganized territory. They are Hardwood South, Rogers Point, Sucker Lakes, Wahnena, Willow River and Winnie Portage.
Approved a contract with Resource Training Solutions to provide guardian and conservatorship services for vulnerable adults and children at $210.37 per month per client in 2020.
Approved a contract with Sourcewell to coordinate contracts for the county at $11,154.78 for the year in 2020.
Approved a contract with Pat Cortese to provide case management supervision and consultation at $125 per hour, not to exceed $13,000 in 2020, for mental health services for vulnerable adults and children.
Approved a contract not to exceed $5,000 with Northland Counseling Center to provide mental health to vulnerable children and adults.
Approved designating Family Safety Network to expend funds raised by the Radiothon to End Child Abuse on families needing services to keep them safe.