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home : 2020 voter's guide : 2020 voter's guide
November 29, 2020

10/16/2020 1:13:00 PM
CHISAGO COUNTY COMMISSIONER - DISTRICT 3

Marlys Dunne
QUESTION #1
When you considered if you would file this year what was the first thing that came to mind that you really want to see accomplished by the County Board and will push to get done?
A critical step in my decision to run for Commissioner was my research into the roles of our commissioners, current issues, and the skills and background of our current county board, so I could assess what I can contribute to the position.  After talking to several local leaders, I learned that we lack a clear, concise vision at our county level, and we will be losing critical financial expertise when our current commissioner retires.  That is what prompted me to file for District #3 Commissioner as I feel confident I can help resolve these issues.  I view creating vision and ensuring fiscal responsibility as critical leadership expectations and given my background in business management and finance, I am confident I will make a positive impact.    Without a vision, most action taken is simply a reaction.  Without a good vision, we will never know where we are heading as a community.   Creating a unified, shared vision for our community takes persistence, insight, and teamwork.  Fiscal responsibility is incredibly important to me, as I want residents of my district to have trust and confidence that our tax dollars are spent wisely and efficiently.  With my education in finance and 25+ years in business, I know I will enjoy the challenge of analyzing and evaluating any issue that commissioners oversee.

QUESTION #2
What issues at the county level interest you most and what unique voice (background)  can you bring to the conversation?
Public safety is of high importance and as commissioner, I will fully support our local law enforcement and advocate for the financial backing they need to keep our communities safe.   I am also interested in expanding our K9 unit, a highly effective resource in preventing and detecting crime.

Economic development is critical to our future and I believe we need a strategy to attract more diverse businesses to our communities.   Our community needs a strong, diverse business base and our residents need more local employment opportunities.  Now more than ever, our businesses need our support to help them succeed to keep our local economy strong and taxes down.  With my passion and experience in manufacturing, I am a strong supporter of attracting skilled manufacturing to our area and keeping our industrial parks full, but I also know that we need to ensure we have a well-balanced business community that retains our small town charm.

State and county demographic data indicate our senior population will continue to grow in Chisago County in the years to come.  We need to be paying special attention to the impact of our aging population to ensure our community can support their needs and protect their quality of life.   

Commissioners are responsible for approving and controlling our county budget and levied taxes.  I would like to see more frequent metrics, trends, and comparisons to help our commissioners ensure that our tax dollars are allocated appropriately.   This information can also help us communicate and educate our districts on how our tax dollars are changing and impacting our quality of life.  If elected, I will commit to participating on the finance committee where I can really put my experience and knowledge of finance, business, and negotiations to work for our community.  

QUESTION #3
Taxes may be the main thing people look at to be kept in check but there are locally-- a wheelage tax, local option sales tax, gravel tax, and lodging tax being collected now in addition to traditional revenues you’d expect.  What’s your thoughts on this approach for finding money from outside the confines of property tax?
From my assessment, these taxes mentioned above are only 4 of the 35+ taxes that we as residents currently pay to our local, state, and federal governments.   Most people do not realize the extensiveness of the taxes we pay because they literally come from all directions.  The list is too vast to cover here, but residents can contact me for more information.  As reported at the September 16, 2020 county board meeting, our Chisago County 2020 budget is currently $73 million budget, of which 53% of that budget comes from levied taxes. The wheelage tax is a fee of $10 assessed at the time of vehicle registration to help generate funds for  roads/bridges construction in our area.   Most people would likely say that is a minor fee to pay towards a critical need, which per the 2020 Chisago County budget is levied at $6.7 million via property taxes.   With a wheelage tax in place, residents that do not own property now pay something towards our road/bridges expense, but unfortunately, property owners end up paying this tax as well.  

 Each tax really needs to be understood from the individual impact as well as the bigger picture and rigorously evaluated for benefit and impact.  
Another example is the lodging tax, which was approved as a means to generate funding for our new Visitor’s Bureau.  These tax dollars are used to market our community for tourism, a critical economic impact factor for our local businesses.  As a Treasurer of the Visitor’s Bureau, I can speak firsthand of the new marketing our community is receiving from these tax dollars.  

I feel all our local taxes need to be evaluated, and approved as a value proposition and residents need to be better informed about how these taxes benefit the community.  

From my experience with the ABC competition, Blandin Foundation, and community administration, I am aware of the extensive amount of grant money available that can help fund critical projects in our community and help keep taxes down.   Our sheriff department, environmental division and social services already utilize grants to fund projects and services currently not covered in our annual budgets. Our new bike trails are a great example of grant dollars that made these projects possible.   These grants take time and expertise to continuously canvas for them, complete applications, and track the money.  Many grants are extremely specific as to how the funds can be used and require detailed financial reporting to ensure the dollars are spent accordingly.   

I highly support continuing the use of grants to support our local services and projects and would also like to be actively involved in finding and analyzing grant opportunities.  That said, grants cannot be counted on year after year and many grants require matching funds which can translate into more tax dollars.   We must also be mindful of the ongoing costs that will need to be funded for projects implemented, such as security, maintenance, and replacement costs.  As commissioner, I will analyze each grant project for its value and benefit to our community, in addition to the bigger picture and ongoing impact to ensure we make the best decisions not only for today’s environment, but for the future of our community residents.    

Katie Roche
QUESTION #1
When you considered if you would file this year what was the first thing that came to mind that you really want to see accomplished by the County Board and will push to get done?
My experience in local government as a City Council Member, an Economic Development Commissioner, and a Planning Commissioner have provided me the opportunity to recognize the importance of having a clear and precise plan, outlining our goals and limitations, so that not only do we know where we are going as a community, but also, so that we as civil servants within our local government, are actively listening to our constituents and partnering with others who are working toward those same goals.  One of my top priorities in choosing to run for Chisago County Commissioner of District 3 has been to craft and develop a Chisago County Vision, in coordination with the other members of the County Board and county staff, to guide our efforts and strategic planning, to address our evolving and growing county, and to understand what we intend to be in the future. Giving a voice to the future of our county, I feel, is incredibly important, noting that we are no longer simply a farming community, nor are we a suburb of a metropolitan area, but rather, we are an intersection of rural and commuting families, strongly invested in our natural treasures, our local economy, and our strong connections to community and personal relationships.

QUESTION #2
What issues at the county level interest you most and what unique voice (background)  can you bring to the conversation?
As the experienced candidate in this race for County Commissioner of District 3, I have built a coalition of support from leaders across this community, showcasing that I am the best prepared to go to the Government Center and fight for lower property taxes and reliable high speed broadband internet. In pointing out that I am not only prepared but enthusiastic about bringing my experience to the County Board on your behalf, an issue that I am strongly engaged in is bringing transparency, collaboration, and partnership to our local government.  In doing this, I anticipate the County Board developing a strong relationship with our municipal governments, our township boards, and the advisory commissions that make up our strong community grounded in what’s truly important to Chisago County. I bring a unique voice to this conversation, having served on the Lindström City Council in addition to serving on two advisory boards prior to serving in the role as a Council Member. Partnering with other local government entities will enable our county to make fiscally wise decisions with a goal of becoming more fiscally responsible to our county’s taxpayers, initiate conversations about the growth and development of our county in respect to broadening the tax base and address the lowering of property taxes, and advocate for our community as a whole to secure state funding that will benefit our county, cities, and townships.

Another issue that I am passionate about resolving within our community is broadband internet services and their accessibility, reliability, and affordability.  The background that I have in advocating for quality broadband internet in our community demonstrates how I have been a strong candidate for Chisago Lakes residents in this discourse. My leadership and participation in the Chisago Lakes Broadband Committee formed as a result of the securing of a Blandin Foundation Grant, my engagement in the Chisago Lakes Area Broadband Project Proposal process, and my involvement in the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition have not only given me the knowledge and experience necessary to advocate for the needs of our community regarding broadband internet accessibility and reliability, but also to recognize the challenges that our Chisago Lakes Area faces when considering internet service providers and the lack of competition amongst providers in our area.  Furthermore, in fighting for broadband accessibility, reliability, and affordability, I know that positive local outcomes will benefit both residents and businesses.  Better access to broadband internet will enable local businesses to be more successful, provide opportunities for people to work from home reliably, and allow more residents to stay local and shop local.

As an advocate for broadening our tax base, I am invested in incentivizing economic development by bringing businesses to the area, providing more local jobs, and relieving some of the tax responsibility from our current property taxpayers.  Additionally, I want to stress the importance of the retention and expansion of existing small businesses in our District 3 community.  In order to achieve these goals, as a County Board, we need to support our County Economic Development Authority staff, work with municipal Economic Development Authority commissioners, and partner with local businesses and the Chisago Lakes Chamber of Commerce to provide a support system.  The time that I have spent serving on the Lindstrom Economic Development Authority and the work that I have done with County EDA staff, specifically the Visioning and Strategic Planning with the County EDA commissioners and community members, provided me with the knowledge and experience that I will need to be a champion of the work that needs to be done to overcome challenges in this area.

Because I strongly value communication, adequate representation at all levels of government, and public safety, an aspect of county government that I intend to support and enhance if I am elected as Chisago County Commissioner of District 3 is the collaboration amongst community entities such as the local school boards, our law enforcement officers and fire departments, and organizations that advocate for and provide housing opportunities to our senior population, young adults, and veterans.  

As a Planning Commissioner and City Council Member, a public school teacher, a taxpayer, and a parent, I recognize the importance and advantages of a County Board that effectively communicates with the county’s school boards.  Initiating and fostering a relationship among these boards that represent our residents and their children is not only imperative to understanding to what extent our community is being fiscally responsible, but also essential in understanding our growing and evolving population and to what ends we are meeting the needs of our youngest residents.  

Additionally, supporting and adequately funding our public safety entities such as law enforcement, fire departments, emergency response employees and volunteers, and public health needs is key to the success of our county.  As a City Council Member, I fervently support the work of our Police Commission and the Lakes Area Police Department, ensuring that they are fully funded.  As a commissioner on the Economic Development Authority, I was one of the first on the commission to voice my support of a new Lindström Fire Hall, and my votes on the Lindström EDA, Lindström Planning Commission, and the Lindström City Council reflect my support for the land to be generously given to the Lindström Fire Department, for the process of architecting a new station to be set in motion, and for the construction of the new fire station to meet the needs of our firefighters and their equipment.
 
Finally, I am an advocate of providing housing options to all of our District 3 residents; this means working for housing opportunities for all seasons of life, communicating with developers who can affordably provide those options, and meeting residents where they are at.  In my time as a Planning Commissioner and a City Council Member, I have participated in project proposals for Veterans Housing that were being advocated for by Commissioner George McMahon.  Although those specific plans were not successful, I want to continue this work and meet the housing needs of District 3 residents.

QUESTION #3
Taxes may be the main thing people look at to be kept in check but there are locally-- a wheelage tax, local option sales tax, gravel tax, and lodging tax being collected now in addition to traditional revenues you’d expect.  What’s your thoughts on this approach for finding money from outside the confines of property tax?
Recognizing that residents of District 3 pay high property tax I am in support of finding other avenues to meet the needs of our county and the budget that the County Board sets to meet these needs. Given that one of my top priorities if elected to the County Board is to decrease property taxes for residents of District 3, I support finding other ways to fund the county budget.  

As a taxpayer, I have found myself asking how a county of our size pays such incredibly high taxes, yet we don’t seem to be thriving or advancing as we should be  After doing my homework, serving within local government, and asking lots of questions, the answer that I come to is mismanagement of funds at a higher level.
 
I have chosen to run for Chisago County Commissioner to be a voice for these concerns of the average taxpayer in Chisago County, and to work with county staff and other elected officials to problem solve.  As an experienced, proven, budget balancer, resolving this mismanagement is common sense to me.  I am running for this office to voice the confusion and concern that many of the residents of Chisago County have shared with me while on the campaign trail and to correct these problems.





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