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Cass County: Budget committee pares down levy

WALKER—Cass County will host a 6 p.m. public hearing Dec. 7 at the courthouse in Walker on the final proposed 2018 levy and budget.

The citizen budget committee pared down departmental requests from the preliminary levy the board set in September to save $292,991.

That committee found enough savings to allow increasing the amount proposed to be set aside for capital improvements from $75,000 to $170,000 in 2018, and recommended the county allocate $5,000 to University of Minnesota Extension to pay toward premiums paid to 4-H members who show at the county fair.

The proposed final levy would increase the 2018 budget over 2017 by 2.55 percent or $541,306. The total 2018 county levy would be $21,804,860.

The Longville Ambulance Service levy charge only against taxpayers in that district would remain at $503,000.

In other business, the board:

Appointed Joshua Stevenson to a new four-year term as county administrator. He has been administrator for one year.

Conducted performance evaluations Oct. 10 for Stevenson, Human, Health and Veterans Services Director Michelle Piprude, Assessor Mark Peterson. Auditor-Treasurer Sharon Anderson, Chief Financial Officer Sandra Norikane, Environmental Services Department Director John Ringle, County Engineer Darrick Anderson, Land Commissioner Kirk Titus, Management Information Systems Director Tim Richardson.

They reported Tuesday all achieved the requirements of their positions.

Learned from child support supervisor Michael Barone in 2016 Cass collected $2.6 million from non-custodial parents to pay to custodial parents in split families for their children's care. Statewide $600 million is collected each year, he said.

While statewide 79 percent of collections can be made by payroll deduction, only 67.3 percent is collected that way in Cass County. Barone said that is largely due to the fact there are fewer year-round large employers who can consistently deduct the money from an employee's paycheck.

There are 1,748 child support cases in Cass County involving 1,866 children, he said. There are 245,000 statewide and 15.6 million nationwide. One in 5 children nationwide receives child support paid to the parent with whom they live.

Barone said child support is one of the most cost-effective government programs. The county collects $2.35 in child support for every dollar spent.

Heard from Leslie Harper, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe government relations specialist, that the band is seeking to have the Bureau of Indian Affairs transfer back to the band 11,000 acres of property from the Chippewa National Forest.

She said during the 1940s and 1950s, the BIA erroneously gave some Leech Lake Band properties to the U.S. Forest Service for designation as part of the Chippewa Forest.

The Leech Lake Reservation and Chippewa Forest outside boundaries largely overlap each other. Today's land ownership is scattered, with some owned by the band, some by Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, some by U.S. Forest, some state, some county and some owned by private individuals.

The board passed a resolution consistent with practice of not taking a position on matters in which they are not the deciding party to neither support nor object to the band's pursuit of these lands.

They thanked Harper, however, for keeping them informed on this proposal.

Learned the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust will pay Cass a $44,820 workers' compensation dividend and an $88,799 property/casualty dividend this year. It reflects positive investment income and the county's insurance claims in the multi-county insurance pool.

The commissioners named Norikane to be the county's voting delegate to MCIT and Commissioner Bob Kangas as alternate.

Approved paying Assistant County Attorney Barb Harrington at the higher county attorney pay grade while she serves as interim county attorney until a new county attorney is selected.

Authorized Darrick Anderson to advance $2,500,000 of the county's 2019 state aid allocation into 2018. This is $500,000 less than was advanced from 2018 into 2017.

Anderson said he hopes to work the county back onto using money in the years for which is allocated.

Learned the large projects planned for 2018 will be finishing the rebuilding and paving project on County Highway 77 on the west side of Gull Lake and projects on county highways 12 and 38.

Anderson said the final cost to replace the Wabedo Township bridge on Sioux Camp Road ran $487,161.63. State township and special town bridge funds were used for the project.

Approved a request from Land Commissioner Kirk Titus to award a $100 contract to Sawyer Timber to clean a culvert on a Poplar Township forest access trail and to award a $300 contract to Enberg Logging for one load of rock to repair a washout by the culvert. Both were low bidders.

Learned the county and Potlatch Corporation will each have a survey done, then give each other easements across the other's property to reach timber tracts north of County Highway 40 in Hiram Township. No fees will be charged.

Approved transferring an easement across county land from Barbara Guse to Kyla M. Clark and Adam J. Todd, contingent upon the parties involved paying a $500 transfer fee and obtaining a certificate of survey.

Approved a $4,035.20 service contract between Northland Business Services and the sheriff's department to service 911 recorders.

Learned the county will receive a $114,048 Minnesota Department of Public Safety grant for Oct. 1, 2017, to Sept. 30, 2019, to provide services to victims of crimes.

Heard Cass County paid $184,218.39 for aquatic invasive species prevention in the third quarter this year, with $171,084.50 of that going to inspect boats at public landings.

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