Hennepin County News: Budgets Increase, New County Administrator
Tell us: Is this a responsible county budget?
The following is information released by Hennepin County:
The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners, on a vote of six to one, approved a 2013 county budget of $1.78 billion – a 2.85-percent increase over the 2012 budget, and a .93-percent increase in the net property tax levy over 2012.
Hennepin County Board Chair Mike Opat said, “Hennepin County residents can be proud of this budget. It protects core services, continues innovations in health care delivery, and makes investments in important public infrastructure. We have dealt with significant challenges, held the line on property taxes and kept the county a model for financial stability.”
In addition, the board, acting as the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority, approved an HCRRA budget of $26.6 million (on a vote of six to one), with a proposed property tax levy of $21 million – a $3-million increase over 2012. The HCRRA seeks to improve rail modes of transportation to reduce traffic congestion and improve mobility.
The board, acting as the Hennepin County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, approved an HCHRA budget of $14.7 million (on a vote of six to one), with a proposed property tax levy of $6.4 million – an increase of approximately $820,000 over 2012. The HCHRA authorizes strategic planning and community engagement to serve the housing and economic development and redevelopment of Hennepin County.
Approximately 36.9 percent of the county’s annual budget is supported by property taxes; the remainder comes from federal and state dollars, fees for services, and other sources.
Hennepin has maintained a top triple-A credit rating from all three rating agencies for 37 years. The top rating reflects strong county management overall, as well as sound financial condition.
Board appoints David Hough acting county administrator
The county board appointed Deputy County Administrator David Hough to serve as acting county administrator, effective Dec. 29, due to the retirement of County Administrator Richard Johnson. The county is conducting an executive search to fill the position, for which Hough will be a candidate.
Hough has served as deputy county administrator since 2008. Before that appointment, he was a deputy county attorney in the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office where he served as the board’s chief legal counsel as well as representing the county in both civil and criminal matters.
HHS/HCMC 2013 budget approved
The board, which has certain reserved powers over Hennepin Healthcare System (HHS), Inc. – the public corporation that oversees operational governance of Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) – also approved the 2013 HHS/HCMC budget with $774.4 million in revenues and $769.6 million in expenditures.
A few highlights of the budget include:
· This is the first year in which activities of Hennepin Faculty Associates (HFA – the private nonprofit physician practice contracted to provide most of the physicians to HCMC, which merged with HHS Jan. 1) were fully integrated into HHS.
· Because 45 percent of HCMC patients are enrolled in state programs, HHS revenue historically doesn’t keep pace with expense inflation.
· The budget includes funding and support for key 2013 priorities critical to continued growth in the number of patients and improvements in quality and patient safety, including improving patient access to all clinics and improved efficiencies in patient care.
· The budget assumes the hospital will experience patient growth even higher than historically planned for.
· Revenue in 2013 is expected to increase by 8.1 percent. But given the high dependence on governmental funding and external pressures, that revenue stream has a high degree of risk.
· The budget includes $24 million in revenue from the county for uncompensated care, which has further increased primarily because of state changes in Emergency Medical Assistance.
Construction contract approved for 911 Emergency Communications Facility
The board approved a $21.6-million contract award to Stahl Construction for construction of the new Hennepin County 911 Emergency Communications Facility on the Adult Corrections Facility (ACF) campus in Plymouth.
The new 911 facility will address space, program and facility shortfalls at the existing facility in Golden Valley, which was built in 1948. The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office has provided a countywide public radio communications system and dispatch of police, fire and emergency medical service calls for the past 70 years.
Total projected budget for the new facility is $33.7 million. The facility will significantly increase communications system reliability, improve operational efficiencies and optimize operating expenses by collocating three principal functions – the 911 Public Safety Answering Point, Critical Infrastructure Radio and Data Network Center, and Radio Systems Operations and Technical Services.
The new 59,200-square-foot facility will accommodate all of the Sheriff’s communication units, as well as facilities to support 911, providing 21 dispatch consoles, with a maximum capacity for 30 consoles. The facility will include a 9,500-square-foot radio installation and electronic mobile equipment storage garage. The site will maximize the use of an existing communication tower on the ACF site.
The facility is expected to be completed in late 2014.
Public safety dispatch services approved for Golden Valley when 911 facility opens
The board authorized public safety dispatch services for the City of Golden Valley, to be effective when the new 911 facility opens in late 2014.
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office currently provides safety dispatch services for 23 law enforcement agencies and 19 fire departments. The services are funded by countywide property taxes. Golden Valley is the only city in Hennepin without its own Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) that is not dispatched by Hennepin.
Golden Valley is currently under contract with Edina for dispatch services, and is required to give a 12-month notice of intent to terminate.
Funding reserved for recommendations from service center study
The board directed that $250,000 in contingency funding be placed in reserve for the Service Center Division for additional staff and other improvements that may be recommended in a study underway to improve service and reduce wait times at the county’s six service centers. Release of the funds will require making a business case for the need in 2013 once service evaluations are completed.
The county’s Eden Prairie Service Center closed last January, and cuts in staff in the past year have increased wait times at the service centers. Additional staff were hired on a temporary basis last fall at the Brookdale, Southdale and Ridgedale centers.
New mandates from the federal government, including proposed legislation in 2013, on issuance of passports and other issues are changing the way the service centers do business.
Ecologically significant area to be preserved in Greenfield
The board approved an agreement with the Minnesota Land Trust to add and co-hold a conservation easement for a 21.4-acre property on the Crow River in the City of Greenfield. The agreement includes funding up to $21,500 for appraisal and stewardship fees and other costs associated with acquiring the easement.
The property is located within a high-priority natural resource corridor that contains ecologically significant natural areas, including a very rare old-growth oak savanna, floodplain forest and wetlands that are important habitats for a variety of wildlife species. This portion of the Crow River is identified by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Minnesota’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, and is a state-designated Wild and Scenic River and important water trail. The easement prohibits activities that would significantly impair or interfere with existing natural resources and critical habitat for plants and animals provided by this site.
Potential future uses for the site include a public park, trails and canoe landing.