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Reservations expressed on Cass HRA loan

WALKER - Scott Wilson, Cass County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) director, obtained a $30,000 one-year operating loan from the county Tuesday.

WALKER - Scott Wilson, Cass County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) director, obtained a $30,000 one-year operating loan from the county Tuesday.

This came after several county commissioners expressed their reservations about the one-time loan.

Commissioner Dick Downham was the only one who voted against the loan in the end. He said when the federal government finally cut something, he does not think the county should undo the cut.

Wilson came to the county budget committee first asking the county to give HRA the $30,000 to backfill revenue HRA lost when the federal government cut funding to many programs under Sequestration.

Cass HRA's operating budget from federal money was down 68 percent in 2012 to 2014 and now has been re-established at a 73 percent funding level to that prior to sequestration, Wilson said.

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Cass's HRA runs public housing programs under which the HRA can offer subsidized rent for people in designated apartments and houses. The federal government sets rents at 30 percent of the renter's income, so HRA cannot increase rent to raise additional revenue, Wilson explained.

Wilson said he has tried to seek additional grants such as those for housing and commercial rehabilitation programs. Those programs can carry added administrative money, which can be used to pay HRA office expenses for all its programs, he said.

Laws do allow the county to set a levy specifically to fund a housing authority, Wilson said. He is asking the board to make such a levy for 2016. He would use revenue from the new levy to repay the 2015 loan the county approved Tuesday.

It is still to be determined whether next year the budget committee will recommend or the board will approve that special levy.

Wilson said the HRA has not asked the county for money since 1978.

Commissioner Neal Gaalswyk, who sat on the 2015 budget committee, recommended, with the committee, the one-year loan, but declined to say whether he would support a special levy in a future year.

Commissioner Jeff Peterson expressed concerns the HRA's request could keep increasing year after year. Commissioner Bob Kangas objected to replacing lost federal dollars.

With the loan approved, Wilson will have to return to the budget committee next year if he wants to get the special levy to repay the loan or for any future county support.

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