After a year as Acting Auditor/Treasurer, Kathy Korteum will become the appointed Auditor/Treasurer at the January 5, 2021 Annual meeting of the Carlton County Board of Commissioners. With the retirement of an elected Auditor/Treasurer Paul Gassert a year ago, the County Board chose Korteum through appointment to fill the position in an acting capacity.
State law provides for the appointment of that position rather than have it decided at election time. During this past year the County’s Human Resources department has developed a job description and arrived at an established pay level for that job. Korteum fulfills the duties of that office with great ability.
“This has been a tough year for Kathy’s department,” commented Commissioner Dick Brenner. “The election cycle with heavy dependence on absentee and mail in balloting created many hours of increased staff time. The stresses of Covid-19 and the paperwork involved with the CARES Act monies complicated the daily accounting work in the Auditor/Treasurer’s department. Kathy should be commended for all her work to do it right.”
Under the COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant Program using Federal CARES ACT monies, a review group comprised of Chair of the County Board Marv Bodie, Mary Finnegan and Brenda Nyberg of the Economic Development Department, and Larry Peterson, President of the 1st National Bank of Moose Lake and an EDA member, worked through the business grant applications. The CARES ACT committee approved and at the Regular December 8 meeting the County Board gave their approval.
Requests for grants came in at $812,583 with the final funds approved of over $369.000. A limit of $7,500 was authorized by the CARES ACT committee with smaller amounts given according to the business involved or the request they made. Some grants were funded at zero because either the business was not the applicant’s primary source of income or the financial statements showed no net loss when reviewed or in some cases some money had been available through another CARES ACT program.
Upon recommendation from the Management Team the County Board was updated on work on an employee performance evaluation process. Zoning Administrator Heather Cunningham had given HR Manager Kim Franek an evaluation form/process she had used in a previous job. The process has several steps to go through yet and is scheduled for a vote by the Board on March 9.
“I am happy this evaluation process is finally being set up,” observed Commissioner Gary Peterson. “I could see the need for this evaluation process even for our department heads. I never had a job that did not come without a yearly evaluation.”
Jail planning and the means to fund the new facility continue. The County Board approved a new resolution requesting the State Legislature give the County permission to ask the local voters if a new ½ % sales could be levied to fund the facility. The choice is either that method or a levy on the local property taxes. The local voter must give permission. State approval for a ½ % sales tax vote was not given in the last Legislative session because a State Tax bill did not pass.
A .6 time custodial position was approved for the beginning of the 2021 budget year for additional responsibilities at the old Cloquet City Hall complex. More custodial help is also needed due to increased cleaning because of the COVID-19 and for some areas in the new Barnum County garage.
The vote was unanimous. Commissioner Tom Proulx said he was voting for this position because it is needed but added that he was dismayed by so much earlier additional hiring when there is supposed to be a hiring freeze.
The final budget with only a 2% increase will be approved at the Adjourned Board meeting on December 21. The County Board’s Annual meeting will be on January 5, 2021 with sworn oaths given to newly elected commissioners Peterson, Brenner, and Proulx and the appointed Auditor/Treasurer Korteum.
Truth in Taxation Hearing
After the Regular Board meeting on December 8, the Truth in Taxation hearing was held at 6PM. It appeared only 5 citizens attended the hearing and all but one just listened. One gentleman said as he walked out of the hearing early, "I guess I came to the wrong meeting to voice my concerns. Someone sooner or later will have to tell me why my taxes went up 80% for this coming year." The Assessor Kyle Holmes followed after him into the Transportation lobby,it appeared, to address his concerns.
Overall the budget will increase 2% for 2021 if the County Board approves the proposed budget on December 21. Issues confronting a balanced budget are:
There is no general wage increase.
New positions are minimal.
Health insurance increases 8.89%.
Property/casualty and Workers Compensation insurances saw an increase of 28.55%.
Levy for debt repayments decreased $293,000.
There is no information on the litigation with the utility companies.