September 21, 2023
Maximum Property Tax Levy Increase Set at 5.2%
The State of Minnesota distributed quite a bit of money this year to Counties; however, not all costs were covered by the State money. The Levy increase can mostly be attributed to about a 5% cost of living increase to 1,300+ employees, 1% to large projects (including the new facility for Law Enforcement training, equipment shed and expansion of the public works center for more maintenance space), general inflationary pressures including health care benefit costs. The county also added about 13 new positions to handle increased workloads to meet our growing population and demand for services. The County Board is aware of the impact property taxes have on businesses and homeowners so is very careful to be conservative with dollars and continue to employ excellent management practices. I supported this Max Levy.
The Tax Levy will be finalized at the December 19 meeting.
The Housing and Rehabilitation Authority Levy will be set a .0185% (This has not increased for about 3 years). This will result in about $4.9 million for the HRA. I supported this Levy.
Olmsted does not have enough short-term shelters for families. HRA recently purchased a building for this use. The HRA Board approved a plan to remodel the building and bring it up to Code. The cost for this is about $500,000 to be paid for by grants from the state and HRA reserves. The Family Shelter is short-term (around 90 days) and provides time for the Housing staff to move the family into permanent housing.
Housing Stability Center
The current warming shelter was created as temporary site. It has availability for about 45 beds and on some nights turns away some people. The State of Minnesota has created an Emergency Shelter Grant Fund. HRA received approval from the Board to apply for the grant up to the allowed limit of $10 million. HRA was also given the approval to enter into a purchase agreement to buy the Olde Towne Estates at 607 East Center Street. HRA’s plan is to build an addition to the existing building for the Emergency Shelter and use the building for low-income housing and reduce the number of people waiting for permanent housing. Under the agreement, Olmsted County HRA would not be able have possession of the building until 2025. No current residence will be evicted and HRA will honor the contract with Luther College student housing for the remainder of their contract which ends in 2024. The purchase price is $5,000,000. It will provide about 45 single room permanent housing units. I supported the HRA plans for the betterment of our community.
Deed and Covenant Reviews
Olmsted County will allow the University of Minnesota to review deeds and housing covenants to identify any prejudicial language. Olmsted County has already reviewed old deeds and covenants when prejudicial codes and covenants were outlawed by the State of Minnesota. There is no timeline on when the University will complete this action and when a report on its findings will be received.
Issuance of General Obligation Bonds
Board approved the issuance of General Obligation Bonds of $19,735,000 dollars through Raymond James and Associates, Inc. The interest rate is 3.808%. The interest cost over the life of the bond is $7,524,067.30. When interest rates come down, Olmsted can refinance the remainder of the principle at the lower rate.
2024 Legislative Bonding Priorities
1. Next Generation Resource Recovery for Climate Resiliency. This bonding request has three parts:
- Reuse and Recycling Center. This is a project that adds a proposed 75,000 square foot Reuse and Recycling Center so that more material can be recovered and sold as well as to reuse useable material that is brought to the facility. In addition, this will remove a lot of material and divert it from the combustion chamber.
- Food Waste Separation Equipment. 20% of the garbage that comes to the Waste to Energy facility is food waste. By sorting out the food waste we can create a product that can be sold to make biogas. This would create an income source and keep the food waste out of the combustion chamber.
- Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage System. This is a proposal to design and engineer a system to de-carbonize the solid waste system.
- The Bonding request is for $17,393,000 (50% of the total cost).
2. Graham Commons
- State Bonding will help support facilities and amenities to prove open-air performances, community events, cultural connections, an event street for walkable booths and activities, a covered pavilion, and reuse of historic (WPA) structures on the grounds. This is a project that will provide economic development but more importantly, provide a space for Olmsted residences to celebrate events, attend festivals, and enhance their living experiences in the county. If bonding is received it will complement the 80,000 square foot arena/building for which Olmsted received bonding dollars this year.
- The Bonding Request is $12,451,000 (50% of the total cost).
3. Lake Zumbro Park
- This project will provide a better fishing pier, make it more accessible and update it to a modern park by providing bathroom facilities, picnic areas, and a pavilion on the former Fisherman’s Inn site. The use by boaters and fishers has increased tremendously since this property was purchased by Olmsted County. Olmsted has already worked with DNR to improve the Boat Launch and Recovery site and improve the shoreline.
- The bonding request is $1,673,000 (50% of the cost).
AAA bond Rating
Olmsted County received a AAA bond rating from both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s; this is a testament to the sound financial management of the Board and finance department. I intend to continue the conservative financial process to maintain this bond rating into the future.
Medical Examiners (Coroner) Report (2022 statistics)
R.Ross Reichard, M.D., Chief Medical Examiner
- 1,829 Deaths by natural cause (1,709 in 2021)
- 38 Deaths by Suicide (Firearms is the largest means of suicide)
Fentanyl is now the most dangerous drug as it relates to death. Other drugs are often laced with Fetanyl increasing its danger. Methamphetamine used to be the most dangerous drug.
Here the illicit drugs and associated Deaths:
- 2 Cocaine
- 1 Cocaine and Meth
- 9 Meth
- 10 Fentanyl
- 7 Fentanyl and Cocaine
- 0 Fentanyl and heroin
- 10 Fentanyl and Meth
- 6 Fentanyl and Multiple Other
- 0 Heroin
- 0 Cocaine and Heroin
- 0 Meth and Heroin
161 Deaths by Falls. This is largest category of Accidental Deaths. (Car crashes account for 21 deaths.)
Death by falls start to tremendously increase at age 65. Age 75-84 have the most deaths by falls; age 85-94 is only slightly low compared to ages 75-84.
Most deaths by fall occur at the decedent’s home. (These are preventable deaths.)
What to learn from the number of deaths caused by falls? Build or remodel homes to make the safe. Some ways to prevent falls include
- Non-slip surfaces in the bathroom and walk-in showers help prevent falls.
- Remove throw rugs to eliminate tripping hazards.
- Install hand rails in hallways.
- Move the bedroom and bathroom to first floor.
- Move items to the lowest cupboard shelves to eliminate the use of ladders and stools to reach items.
- Increase lighting
For more information see: https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/home-care/info-2019/safety-tips.html
- December 7 – Truth in Taxation
- December 19 – Final Levy set