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Auditor/treasurer will remain elected position

MORRIS – On Tuesday, the Stevens County Board of Commissioners had a discussion about whether the position of auditor/treasurer should be an elected or appointed position.

At their last meeting, the board asked County Attorney Aaron Jordan to research the process for changing the position.

State statute offers three ways to change the position from elected to appointed: a citizen petition, a legislative change, or a referendum, Jordan said.

If the board were to pass a resolution for a referendum, the question could be put to voters as early as the general election this fall. If the referendum passes, the position would be elected through the next term, then switch to an appointed position when the term is completed.

Jordan also noted that there is some movement at the state level to make these positions appointed rather than elected – a question that may come up in the next legislative session.

Jordan emphasized that he was not advocating one way or the other on the issue, but that if the board wanted to move forward they needed to decide quickly to get the question on November’s ballot.

Commissioners Jeanne Ennen and Donny Wohlers asked if the appointed auditor/treasurer would have to be the same person who is elected to the four-year term this fall.

“Until that person moves on for whatever reason, that person would stay,” said Jordan. However, Jordan added that the auditor/treasurer could be removed for cause once the position was appointed.

Commissioner Ron Staples said that very few referendums on this issue have passed across the state. Given the short timeframe and lack of a champion on the issue, Staples said it could be hard to get out and sell the issue to the voters.  

Commissioner Phil Gausman said he felt it would be better for the state to establish some basic qualifications for the position.

“It appears to me now that there’s basically none – correct me if I’m wrong, but if you’re upright and breathing you can run for the office,” said Gausman.

Ennen said she felt the question was best left in the hands of citizens, but also encouraged the legislature to set qualifications.
“If now is not the right time that’s fine, but if we’re going to go that route I really believe it belongs with the people to make that decision,” said Ennen.

After some discussion, the board elected not to move forward with a referendum.

Commissioners review first draft of 2015 budget

The Stevens County Board of Commissioners got their first look at a preliminary budget for 2015 at their meeting Tuesday.

The budget includes a proposed levy increase of just over 9.5 percent. Unlike previous budgets, this preliminary figure does not include a spend down of county reserves.

In total, the budget includes $13.9 million in total expenditures, a 2.6 percent increase over 2014, and $6.6 million in revenue, a .86 percent increase from 2014.

The county will also see a nearly 30 percent reduction in County Program Aid, from $387,770 in 2014 to $271,482 in 2015.

The board scheduled a budget work session for Tuesday, Sept. 2 at 1 p.m. to review the budget before they pass a preliminary levy amount in mid-September.

Other business

  • The board set a public hearing on a petition for a partial abandonment of County Ditch 3 for Tuesday, Sept. 16 at 10 a.m. The petitioners, Laurie and Dennis Feuchenberger, would like to abandon the physical tile to allow privately funded alterations to the system. The existing tabulation of benefits will stay the same.
  • The board voted to set a four percent interest rate over 15 years on a $1.98 million bond for a major improvement project to County Ditch 30. Letters will go out to landowners next week with their share of the improvement. Landowners will have the option to pay the assessment by Sept. 26 or have it included as a special assessment beginning on their 2015 tax statements.
  • The board accepted a performance credit grant of $1,960 for the county’s feedlot program.