For the first time in many years the Carlton County Board of Commissioners set the smallest increase in the property tax levy at an increase of only 2% at their Adjourned meeting on December 28. Health insurance costs have risen this last year by over 8%, but it was not enough to put pressure for an even higher levy increase.
The levy for 2021 will raise $28,790,977 through property taxes with $772,170 going for bond repayment with $3,157,787 for Road and Bridge and $7,764,056 for Human Services. Human Services has a budget of $22,267,802 of which two-thirds of the funding comes from Federal and State sources. The Arrowhead Library System is funded by levy dollars at $149,490 which includes Bookmobile service.
Negotiations with the unions continue at this time for the new contracts. In the mean time County Coordinator Dennis Genereau proposed that the Sheriff and the County Attorney, elected positions, should be paid on a full two-week, 80 hour basis rather than at the current 75 hour two-week basis. The increase would pay the County Attorney about $8,000/year more and the Sheriff about $7,000/year more.
The last meeting of the year is when salaries for the next fiscal year are set for elected officials. The County Board set the same rates for their own salaries, per diem, and meals as the current year. On the subject of the County Attorney and Sheriff salaries Genereau noted that the County Highway Engineer had been moved up this year to salary based on an 80 hour two-week work basis.
Genereau noted, “I know that several of our salaried department heads put in many more hours than they are compensated for. I think it should be considered to pay the County Attorney and Sheriff on an 80 hour, two-week work basis. This is over due.”
Commissioner Tom Proulx argued that no change should be made. He felt this would put pressure on staff in the County Attorney’s office and the Sheriff’s office at a time when the County Board is negotiating new contracts with all the bargaining units.
“We are asking our people to accept no salary increase because of this time of pandemic,” argued Proulx, “and this would look unfair for them.”
Commissioner Dick Brenner countered by saying, “We cannot have our supervising department heads being paid less for all the extra responsibility and extra hours they commit to their work. We want to keep good people.”
Genereau explained that in comparison to County Attorneys in surrounding counties about the same size, Carlton County’s County Attorney is near the bottom of the pay scale. The Sheriff is rated for pay in the lower one third. He added that these positions had not been added to a compensation grading list for the Keystone firm but that the recommendation would come back at a much higher figure if the County Board would want to take that route.
The County Board approved paying the Sheriff and the County Attorney in this next fiscal year at a rate of 80 hours in a two week period with only Proulx voting nay.
In other County news, Highway Engineer JinYeene Neumann reported that only 20 people signed up for the County to plow their private driveways during the current winter months. All of those that signed up did so before the deadline.
Neumann also got Board approval to raise the rates for County trucks and graders $10/year for five years. The rates this County charges local governments averages below the current rates charged in other regional Counties. She felt that the increase should come slowly because of the uncertain economic times currently with the effects of the pandemic.
The County Board thanked Chair Marv Bodie for his leadership and problem solving during the current budget year. This was Bodie’s last meeting as chair and he said it was a tough, action-packed year. A new chair is being selected at the Annual Meeting on January 5, 2021 at 8:30 a.m. at the Transportation Building meeting room.