June 10, 2010 at 8:40 a.m.

Budget is difficult for County Board to nail down as funds shift

Budget is difficult for County Board to nail down as funds shift
Budget is difficult for County Board to nail down as funds shift

The County Budget is a constantly shifting thing; just last week the commissioners gladly approved a new joint powers agreement with the East Central Regional Library reducing Chisago County's share in offering the consortium's library services -- only to hear in that same County Board meeting about state cuts in funding for programs provided by county Health and Human Services.

The Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) estimates losses in state dispersements, last year and for this coming year, are in the multi-millions of dollars (see chart). Counties may try to continue offering services but in many instances programs could just disappear.

Nancy Dahlin, fiscal manager in the county HHS department, told the county commissioners she attended an interactive televised workshop on state funding stream changes.

Dahlin also read text by HHS Director Mary Sheehan (who was not able to be at last week's Board meeting.) Sheehan states the loss of the state's General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) is "...one of the larger matters facing the county." Clients of GAMC are now supposed to enroll in one of four hospitals providing care at about 30 percent of the reimbursements the providers used to get. the clients have to transport themselves at their own cost to one of the four sites for their care. Dahlin said clients losing GAMC are very limited in their ability to understand how any of this works, or some will be coming off new surgeries, etc. and find there is no follow-up provided.

Reductions in payments to chemical dependency care providers is also a concern, Dahlin said. The county-managed consolidated treatment fund and the variety of services covered out of this fund are still being looked at for impacts.

In another budget impact issue, the Board also approved changes to the STS program contract. Chisago County will get one full-time Sentence to Serve crew leader to run the program, instead of time equaling one and a half. The line item cost is the same for STS at $113,983 but there'll be fewer STS work projects.

Public Health Director Jill Briggs gave a powerpoint show on the basics of her department, accompanied by nurse-staffers Candy Hanson and Pat Henton.

The local levy supporting Public Health is $1.9 million. The rest of the department's $2.9 million budget comes from other sources. There's 43 full-time equivalent positions in Chisago County Public Health. They work on immunizations, infectious disease issues, do visits to homes with new babies, respond to calls about elderly long term care and home care, do health assessments for every jail inmate (1,472 last year) and they work with schools, and participate in community events like Safety Camp in summer.

Briggs said obesity is the most pressing public health threat. Obesity leads to so many other health problems. She also said tobacco use, chronic disease management and advocacy for those under-served or not served by healthcare are some of her top concerns.

Library funding revised

It takes all six counties in the east central region to okay any change in their joint powers agreement that provides library services. After literally years of debating the funding formula used to calculate each county contribution; Library Director Barbara Misselt was pleased to present changes to the Board. She noted five other county boards had approved these changes and Chisago would make it unanimous.

Commissioner George McMahon, sitting on the library board for Chisago County, said library funding is probably going to get "more and more difficult" in years ahead so now was a good time to make funding formula changes. McMahon added the regional library board debate sometimes grew "excited" but in the end, the counties cooperated.

The formula is now revised so a county's tax capacity (based on property valuations) is only 30 percent of the formula instead of 50 percent. The number of cards issued is changed to actual circulation numbers in each county. Misselt explained that where one family might use one library card; another family signs-up each individual family member up for a library card, making number of cards a skewed indicator of a county's usage of the system.

Had this formula been in effect for 2010 Chisago County's support would have dropped to $535,000 compared to the $559,000 budgeted.

Big news

Community Partnership with Youth & Families Director Tom Koplitz was on-hand for the County Board agenda item for his organization. The Partnership has won a half-million dollar grant allowing for adding a certified Chemical Dependency Counselor and to expand its programs over 10 counties as of July. As "host county" of the organization, the County Board officially accepted the "Prevention Works" monies and complimented Koplitz and the organization on the good work in this field.

Community Partnership will continue to be based in North Branch.

A concessions agreement was approved, on the park board's recommendation, to allow for a snacks, etc. vendor in Fish Lake County Park. Leanne Gustafson pays $35 to the parks department monthly to run concessions there.


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