Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Commissioners get raise, still low compared to others

 

January 4, 2018



During their final meeting of 2017 on December 26, the Carlton County Board of Commissioners raised their annual salary by 2 1/2% to $23,033.80 effective for 2018. The per diem rate for meetings attended has been at $50 and no final decision on the rate will be acted upon until the County Coordinator Dennis Genereau comes back in a January meeting with a cost comparison of the fourteen adjoining counties.

Chair Gary Peterson opened the discussion stating, "We have seen several budget years where there has been no increase to Board salaries. For discussion I am willing to make a motion for a 2% increase. I think we have been very conservative on keeping Board costs under control."

Discussion among the Board offered 2 1/2 to 3 1/2% increases. Genereau observed, "Aitkin County is at $29,000 and Crow Wing is at $30,000 among the 14 adjoining counties. Carlton County is a middle size county and yet is low in the salary ranks. I would consider this decision carefully."

Finally, Commissioner Dick Brenner made a motion to set a 2 1/2% increase with the motion passing 4-1 with Proulx voting nay.

Levy set

Commissioner Marv Bodie led the levy discussion vote by commenting, "The Jail Study directs us to fund a leader to head a jail replacement project. The .42% that has been been reduced from the earlier 4.92% levy increase would pay for that position."

Commissioner Tom Proulx interjected, " Implementing the jail study will take a staff person to gather information and push it to completion."

Chair Peterson responded, "I am against raising the levy beyond the 4.5% because we promised people at the Truth in Taxation Hearing that we would cut the levy from the 4.92% proposal and we should not go back on our word."

County Auditor Paul Gassert then said, "If you are going to get a justice center proposal for 2020, County fund balances could handle that position."

Brenner offered, "It appears we will take the jail project lead out of fund balances." The levy of 4.5% came through unanimously.

In other business the County Sheriff salary was raised to $99,524, County Auditor/Treasurer to $96,747 and County Attorney to $110,266.

County Attorney Tom Pertler addressed the Board on opioid litigation by counties in Minnesota. He said that 12 counties have hired Lockridge and Gustafson Law Firms to sue three manufacturers of opioids and several distributors. The cases are in the discovery stage. Manufacturers are being charged with over-promotion of the drugs and downplaying the harmful effects of those drugs. Numerous distributors are being charged with a lack of control on the number of drugs being shipped out and a violation of distribution laws.

Pertler was instructed by the Board to ask the attorneys to present their plan for holding these companies accountable to the County Board at a January meeting.

The Carlton County Land Department had a timber auction on December 14 raising $128,691 with most individual sales being bid up above the appraised price by 50-70%. It was noted by the Land Commissioner Greg Bernu that there were $200,000 in excess funds left in Tax-Forfeit Fund Balance. $90,000 will be returned to local taxing authorities but around perhaps $100,000 will be used for house demolitions in the County. There are five dilapidated homes scheduled to be razed by County crews in 2018.

 

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