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Property tax relief due to COVID-19?

By Staff | Apr 26, 2020

Possible property tax relief due to the COVID-19 pandemic came up for discussion at the Faribault County Board meeting on Tuesday, April 21.

“Property tax relief in the form of late payment penalty forgiveness is a topic many Minnesota counties are currently considering,” Faribault County auditor/treasurer Darren Esser told the board. “Because it appears there will be no state-wide relief provided by the legislature.”

Esser stated he had been in touch with many other auditor/treasurers from other counties regarding this situation.

“Most of them are recommending no change at this time,” he explained. “One of the changes which was brought up was lowering the penalty for late payments.”

Esser was asked by the board if the staff in his office would be able to handle any changes.

“I understand these are unprecedented times,” Esser said. “But it would be a nightmare for the staff to administer the changes.”

Board chairman Tom Warmka backed up Esser’s opinion.

“To change our policy would be a nightmare,” Warmka agreed. “We can always revisit this if it becomes necessary.”

Esser also brought up a request to allow the Buildings and Grounds supervisor to take the county maintenance van home so he would be able to have improved response times to emergencies since he could leave directly from home.

“The increased ages of the county building have steadily increased the number of emergency call-ins for the Buildings and Grounds supervisor throughout the past years,” Esser commented.

Commissioners Greg Young and Tom Loveall questioned whether it was a good practice, and raised the question of the employee needing to record the mileage to-and-from home as personal use miles.

“Yes, I believe the IRS would consider those personal use miles and the employee would have to keep track of those miles,” Esser offered.

Warmka spoke if favor of the idea.

“The service van is outfitted with tools and would be stored in a locked shed if it went home with the employee,” Warmka said. “Otherwise it sits out on the street in town.”

The board decided in favor of allowing the employee to take the van home on a 3-2 vote with Loveall and Young voting against the motion.

Public Works director Mark Daly also had some business to bring before the board.

“I have three bids for you to approve,” Daly said. “The first is for a full-depth reclamation of County State Aid Highway 23, from the south county line going north to the intersection of County Road 2 in Bricelyn.”

Ulland Brothers was the only bidder on this project and the board approved their bid of $1,474,627.51.

The board also approved the low bid of $500,100 for gravel crushing from Holtmeier Construction. Ulland Brothers bid was $585,600.

“We received four bids for our 2020 crack sealing,” Daly remarked. “The bid from ASTECH was the lowest at $88,664. It was $11,000 under the engineer’s estimate and also under our budgeted amount of $100,000.”

Central Services administrator Lexi Scholten also had some business to bring before the board.

“We had 22 people apply for the crime victim/witness coordinator position in the County Attorney’s office,” Scholten told the board. “After conducting interviews the position was offered to, and accepted by, Barb Ziegler.”

County Attorney Kathryn Karjala explained the position is partially funded by a grant from the federal government.

The board passed a motion to approve the hiring of Ziegler.

“The other item I am bringing before you is in regard to our current personnel policy which allows county employees to earn paid time off (PTO), but being unable to utilize PTO benefits until after completing their six-month probationary period,” Scholten stated. “Due to Governor Walz’ stay at home executive orders, some employees have not been able to work their normal hours. The employees currently in the probationary period do not have the ability to supplement any unworked hours.”

Scholten informed the board there are currently five employees in their probationary period.

“I think this is a good idea to give some temporary relief in this situation,” Young said.

A motion was passed unanimously to temporarily allow all probationary employees to utilize their PTO banks during their six-month probationary period, with a sunset date of Dec. 31, 2020, unless determined otherwise by board approval.

Ziegler also brought a resolution to the board declaring April 19-25, 2020, as Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

The resolution, which was passed unanimously, reaffirms Faribault County’s commitment to creating a victim service and criminal justice response that assists all victims of crime. It also expresses the county’s sincere gratitude and appreciation for those community members, victim service providers, and criminal justice professionals who are committed to improving the response to all victims of crime so they may find relevant assistance, support, justice and peace.