Todd County tables abatement policy
A board action to put into place an abatement policy as presented at a work session in May met with contention which resulted in the action being tabled at the Todd County Commissioners meeting Aug. 2. They are seeking more information and waiting for a response to a letter to the Department of Revenue.
County Assessor Chris Odden began to present the action, but Commissioner David Kircher stopped him. Kircher said he had information about some disputes because the Board of Appeals gave approvals for certain property abatements that now the state is saying cannot be abated.
“The state has said that Chris could lose his license if he continues to do this (approve certain abatements),’ said Kircher.
Odden said that other counties have not enforced this rule and that the response from the Minnesota Department of Revenue in their own words is “reactionary.”
Kircher said he did not appreciate the state coming in and threatening Odden. He said that he is recommending a letter be written to the Department of Revenue stating that they should not be attempting to punish Odden for a county board decision.
“It is not fair to him. He is just doing his job,” said Kircher.
It was agreed by the board not to approve any abatement policy until the disparity at the state is handled. The action was tabled until such time that they receive a response from the state.
In other business:
o Opted to retain the services of a CPA firm that meets the requirements established in Minnesota Statutes, section 326A.05, for its annual financial audit.
o Approved the West Central Regional Juvenile Center purchase agreement for 2017 for use of the facility. The county purchases half a bed. Commissioner David Kircher who serves on the board for the center said he believes the cost to be right around the same as last year. The annual financial obligation, regardless of usage, is $41,750.
o In addition to approving using funding from the town-bridge account from years 2017 and 2018 ($109,000 from 2017 and $21,000 from 2018), the board also approved the resolution to contract with Robert R. Schroeder Construction, Inc. of Glenwood based on their low bid of $619,423 for work on the historic bridge rehabilitation project on 290th Street in Hartford Township.
According to County Engineer Loren Fellbaum, the township is also financially responsible for $20,000 of the project - $10,000 for engineering and $10,000 toward construction costs.
o The county board approved extending an offer of temporary employment for the County Coordinator/Human Resources position to Lisa Herges.
If she chooses to accept the position, she would begin Monday, Aug. 22, working 3/5 time (Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays) with a 3/5 pro- rated salary based on the full-time Springsted placement.
Benefits will not be accrued during this temporary three month period.
After three months in this part-time position, Herges will meet with the board to verify the continued interest of both parties to make the relationship permanent.
o Approved Patricia Pechan to fill the open position of property tax specialist that is shared between the Assessor’s and Auditor/Treasurer’s offices. Pechan will begin on Aug. 8.
o Heard the annual budget presentation for the Great River Regional Library from Executive Director Karen Pundsack and Accounting Coordinator Aron Murphy.
The amount of Todd County’s financial responsibility actually went down for 2017 by $4,281. In 2016 the county was responsible for $341,674 and in 2017 that number drops to $337,393.
Pundsack said that the amount won’t drop every year for the county, but that it is based on the county population, the number of borrowers and the net tax capacity of each county involved.
o Approved the hire of Douglas Thom as full-time GIS technician. His start date will be determined.
o Approved the retirement of Sharon Willie as Seasonal Energy Assistance Program Worker. Willie has been with the county for 40 plus years and the last seven she has worked as the season EAP.
Along with this action, the board also approved recruiting and hiring a part-time seasonal EAP program worker to fill the position.
o Approved the retirement of Eligibility Worker Kathy Davis, who, after 30 years with the county, submitted her intent to retire on Nov. 30.
Financial Supervisor Lisa Chapin said that their caseloads are very high and that the projections from the state for the number of MNSure cases in Todd County was to have been 935, but is nearly double that amount currently.
“The work just keeps coming. The system is definitely flawed,” said Chapin.
With a note of sarcasm in his voice, Kircher said, “I can’t believe a state system would be flawed like that.” Then he and others laughed.
Chapin showed some of the multi-page manuals that they have to use to do anything with the system.
She added that things that used to take minutes, now take half a day to do.
To change an address for a family of ten now has to be changed 11 times which gives more opportunity for human error.
She said that with the training that is required for the eligibility worker position, it takes about a year before they can work on their own.
The board approved the retirement of Davis and also the recruitment and hire of a new eligibility worker who will, with hope, be able to start before Davis is gone.
o Approved the Home and Community Based Waiver Services Contract between Thomas Allen, Inc. and Todd County Health and Human Services.
o The board further approved the purchase of a service agreement between Thomas Allen Consulting, Inc. and the HHS department to provide guardian and conservatorship services.
o The board approved two lay-offs from the WIC (Women Infants and Children) program due to declining WIC participation rates and the subsequent budget shortfall which makes staff reductions necessary to remain budget neutral.
The lay-offs were for WIC Coordinator Monica Hansen effective Sept. 30 and for Office Support Specialist Maria Ruiz effective Aug. 16 both with payment of severance in accordance with the AFSCME Public Health Collective Bargaining Agreement.