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Cass County Board: Budget committee recommends levy increase for 2023

The committee’s recommendation is based on cost increases in 2023 for labor contract negotiations, gas and diesel fuel costs and utility costs.

Cass County Courthouse in Walker.
Cass County Courthouse in Walker.
Brainerd Dispatch
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BACKUS — The Cass County Citizens Budget Committee is recommending a final tax levy increase of 5.06% for 2023.

Cass County Administrator Josh Steveson provided that information to Cass County Board members at the board’s Tuesday, Oct. 18, meeting in Backus. The committee’s recommendation is based on cost increases in 2023 for labor contract negotiations, gas and diesel fuel costs and utility costs, Stevenson said.

During labor negotiations, Stevenson said essential groups are requesting a 5%-8% cost of living adjustment over the next three years. Neighboring counties, he noted, are adjusting 2022 wages to settle future labor contracts and if Cass County doesn’t increase wages accordingly the county will fall behind in wages.

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Chief Financial Officer Sandra Norikane said there were two adjustments made to the levy during the discussion. The first was a request from the sheriff’s office to match a possible grant to fund underwater recovery equipment and the second was for revenue recovery for gasoline reimbursements from departments. Both of these adjustments were in the amount of $50,000. However, with the grant match for the sheriff’s office it was discovered this is a competitive grant and the county is not guaranteed to receive the funding.

If the county does not receive the funding, the department would therefore not spend the $50,000. Commissioner Neal Gaalswyk asked what the levy would be without that funding and suggested using funds out of the general fund if the grant is received. Norikane said the levy would go down to approximately 4.85% if that amount was taken out.

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Stevenson also informed the board of additional American Rescue Plan Act Grant Funds the county is eligible to receive. The amount the county is eligible to receive is $1,378,347.40, and can be used to fund anything the county would like. Stevenson said they are planning on setting the money aside and utilizing it for labor negotiations during 2023, which will assist the county in being competitive with neighboring counties.

The board also heard from Kristy Smart, veterans service officer, who asked the board to adopt a resolution declaring Nov. 7-13 as “Operation Green Light.” During this week, the county buildings would be illuminated green in support of all veterans for the sacrifices and contributions they and their families have made on the battlefield and at home. Smart also encouraged all Cass County residents to display a green light at home or their business to show their support. The board unanimously passed the resolution to declare Nov. 7-13 as “Operation Green Light.”

In other business, the county board:

Approved, with recommendation from the personnel committee of the board, denying a Step 3 grievance of the AFSCME Local Union 2195 HHVS unit regarding a written reprimand. Also, if the union wants to proceed to Step 4, the county requests mediation of the grievance by the Bureau of Mediation Services before proceeding to Step 5 arbitration with the assistance of labor counsel.

Approved commissioners Jeff Peterson and Gaalswyk as representatives on a committee to bring a recommendation to the board concerning the growing needs in the Environmental Services Department.

Approved a contract with PROSECUTO by Karpel to update the county attorney case management software in the amount of $83,900. This update would allow attorney’s to share not only files, but also video and audio and would be a faster working system for use during trials.

Heard a report from Norikane concerning the third quarter financial review, and that currently there are no budget recommendations.

Established a public hearing at 6 p.m. Dec. 8 during the Truth in Taxation meeting regarding the adoption of the Cass County Fee Schedule effective Jan. 1, 2023.

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The next meetings are as follows: Commissioner’s board meeting 9 a.m. Nov. 1 at the boardroom in the courthouse annex in Walker; commissioner’s board meeting 9 a.m. Nov. 15 at the Land Department Meeting Room in Backus; and AMC Annual Conference Dec. 5-7 at DoubleTree Hotel Bloomington-Minneapolis South, 7800 Normandale Boulevard, Minneapolis.

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