The search for a new Fillmore County coordinator has commenced. At their Tuesday, Aug. 27, meeting, the Board of Commissioners discussed the action they could take to fill the coordinator position that will be vacated by current coordinator Karen Brown at the end of the year.

Recent debate has centered on the board's wishes for the position, specifically on whether the county should continue with a coordinator position or transition to an administrator position.

Commissioner Duane Bakke said, "The coordinator position was created by the county by what we put into it. It's changed since the 23 years we've had it."

Currently, 16 counties in Minnesota have a coordinator and 51 have an administrator. Using information gathered from the Association of Minnesota Counties, the board weighed their options.

"Is there a difference between them," Commissioner Chair Randy Dahl queried.

Bakke explained the board could give all the responsibilities due the coordinator to an administrator.

Commissioner Chuck Amunrud said he wasn't interested in having an administrator position, when the current coordinator position gave the county board flexibility.

One by one, the rest of the commissioners agreed that they would like to keep the coordinator position since it had worked for the county.

Dahl reminded the board that now was the time to make any changes they wanted. Bakke said he was comfortable with the job description as they had it now.

Kristina Kohn from human resources told the board they could figure out which roles the new coordinator could fill based upon their individual strengths.

Bakke noted that the relationship between the coordinator and the board would be very valuable in ensuring the position's effectiveness.

The board approved the advertisement of the county coordinator position in local publications and other county job posting websites.

Kaase recommended the board have an initial review of candidates within three weeks.

Budget proposals

Commissioners discussed and reviewed 2014 budget proposals for a couple of county departments including Highway and Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). The board also appropriated money toward the Bluff Country Housing and Rehabilitation Authority.

County coordinator Karen Brown alerted the board during the meeting that the state had set the levy limits for 2014. Fillmore County's had no increase and will be set at $8,435,205; the same as 2013. Currently, the 2014 levy is at an eight percent increase as compared to 2013.

Bakke said the county would have to get the increase down to zero percent.

Following the regular items of business, the board discussed how it could go about reducing the levy. Bakke said each department would need to come back with a way to bring their increases down to zero.

"I think all departments have to better revenue capture. We've been investing in technology as a part of that," shared Dahl.

County engineer Ronald Gregg went through budgets for highway administration, maintenance, construction, equipment maintenance shops, airport and airport fuel sales.

Brown shared that the health insurance increase would be 2.5 percent, 7.5 percent lower than what the county had planned for. This would amount to approximately $118,000 in savings.

Gregg said the county had used a lot more sand over the past winter and the expenses reflected that. It was decided that the department would purchase two new plow trucks at $180,000 each. Both trucks being replaced had over 120,000 miles. The county also approved the purchase of a 2007 backhoe at $35,227 with a trade-in.

Regular road construction projects for 2014 include a full-depth reclamation on County Road 14 from County Road 5 to County Road 1. County Road 9 from County Road 14 down to County Road 44 would be addressed as well. Sealcoating will be applied on County Roads 5 and 12. Total project costs are estimated to be around $3.3 million.

Municipal construction projects pushed back because of the flooding this summer will include County-State Aid Highway (CSAH) 1 in Spring Valley, CSAH 17 in Preston and CSAH 35 in Harmony. There are also five bridge projects scheduled for next year.

Pam Schroeder reported that fuel sales at the airport have increased and the county was on their third tank of fuel.

Commissioner Chuck Amunrud reported that the Friends of Forestville have expressed an interest in turning the ownership of Highway 118, which runs through Forestville State Park and has been closed since 2008, to the state park.

Donna Rasmussen and Joe McGee, SWCD, presented budgets for the SWCD and Water Quality departments. Rasmussen expressed thanks to the commissioners for their work for the SWCD.

The department requested $210,000 as their 2014 budget, which Rasmussen said was the same figure that had been requested since 2008. She noted their department has seen a 30 percent increase since that time, mostly in salaries and employee benefits.

The department had acquired approximately $2.6 million dollars in grants and $1.1 million in an Ag BMP loan. Most of the grants are on a two- to three- year cycle, which Rasmussen said has not provided certainty in long-term planning. However, she said the department has been able to manage their grants well.

Sales tax grant dollars are becoming more competitive with $18 million awarded last year in response to $68 million in applications. The county SWCD received approximately $220,000 in grant dollars from the sales tax appropriation.

A drop in tree sales is expected since the state cost-share for windbreak trees dropped. The department expects roughly $10,000 in annual revenue from tree sales.

The board approved the appropriation of $5,000 to the Bluff Country Housing and Rehabilitation Authority (BCHRA) as requested by Gerry Krage. The BCHRA is a multi-county board dedicated to assist in the redevelopment of low-income housing. Past and future projects include the rehabilitation of Harmony Manor Apartments and the soon to be rehabilitated owner-occupied Vesterheim Apartments in Preston.

Krage said the BCHRA is still looking for more projects in the county and is putting together more small cities grants for future projects.

Fund balances

County auditor/treasurer Shirl Boelter presented updated information on fund balances following the June tax settlements. She pointed out that the state would be collecting roughly $923,000 in property taxes from the county. The number may still go down or up at the November Truth in Taxation meeting.

Dahl stated with irritation that "on average, they had implemented a 21-22 percent tax. Now it's 30 percent per business." He continued by saying the state had been increasing taxes every year on common property, while the county stayed the same.

"Ours is capped, theirs aren't. I think the state should get out of the property tax business," he concluded.

Boelter showed that the state would be collecting only slightly less than the Highway department would be. The expected unrestricted fund balance to subsequent year budgeted expenditures is 37.4 percent which is below last year's 39.7 percent and between the 30 to 50 percent State Auditor's recommended range.

Other business

In other matters, the board of commissioners discussed the following issues during their meeting.

• The board approved the purchase of an upgrade to ArcView, which is the county's Geographic Information Systems desktop software.

• As recommended by county zoning Officer Chris Graves, an access permit to CSAH 38 in Sumner Township was approved for Gary and Cindy Krahn.

• The commissioners approved the purchase of an additional server which would allow the law enforcement servers to have their own security separate from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. The purchase and the connection to the storage area network had been budgeted.

• The board decided to table an item relating to adopting Merit Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action guidelines in the Community Services-Social Services Division. Commissioner Tom Kaase said the guidelines should be reviewed and compared with the county's current guidelines to ensure they compare "apples to apples." The board will seek approval during the next regular board meeting on Sept 3.