News: County Board approves maximum levy, Green Line extension design plan




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Contact: Carolyn Marinan, Communications, 612-348-5969


2016 budget includes child protection system changes, election upgrades

The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to approve a $726.8 million maximum property tax levy that would improve the safety of children, modernize the county’s elections system and support self-sufficiency and workforce initiatives.

The maximum property tax levy represents an increase of $31.2 million or 4.48 percent from last year’s adjusted levy. The board is required by state law to adopt a maximum property tax levy in September. Commissioners may later approve a property tax levy that is lower than the approved maximum, but they cannot set it higher than the maximum adopted at Tuesday’s meeting. In November, property owners will receive a notice that shows the impact of the county maximum levy on their properties, as well as the impact of taxes proposed by other local units of government, such as cities and school districts. 

Full budget up for approval December 15

On September 8, Hennepin County Administrator David Hough presented a proposed budget of $1.9 billion; the figure the board approved on Tuesday is the part of the budget that is covered by property taxes. 

"The board has taken an initial look at balancing priorities for this budget cycle," said Board Chair Jan Callison. "We will continue to look carefully at funding, program and service needs and impacts before setting the final budget in December.”

Hennepin County’s property tax levy has increased by an average of 0.57 percent per year over the past four years, but changes in state and federal funding, as well as onetime and systemic changes continue to make the county more reliant on the property tax levy to fund programs and services.

The 2016 budget reflects onetime and systemic changes that are meant to improve conditions for some of the county’s most vulnerable residents, increase innovation and self-sufficiency, support services to residents, and demonstrate a commitment to solid fiscal priorities and responsibilities that remain evident in more than three decades of AAA bond ratings.

Some elements of the 2016 budget include:

Child protection
A plan to improve the safety of children in the county includes increasing critical staff and reexamining current work practices.

In preparation for national and local elections in 2016, the county is updating existing voting equipment. 

Self-sufficiency and workforce initiatives
As Baby Boomer employees retire, the Career Connections program identifies, trains and hires qualified candidates for gateway county positions with opportunities for additional education and advancement. 


Upcoming hearings

The board has held a series of budget hearings in September, and will continue to do so until the final budget and levy are accepted in December. Remaining hearings and other important dates include: 

Friday, September 25, 9 a.m. to noon 
Budget Hearing for Health Human Services and Public Health (follow-up if needed) 

Monday, November 2, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. 
Capital Budgeting Task Force (CBTF) Report/Capital Presentation/Fees 

Tuesday, December 1, 6 p.m. 
Board holds Truth-in-Taxation public meeting 

Thursday, December 10, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. 
Budget amendments 

Friday, December 11, 10 a.m. to noon 
Budget amendments 

Friday, December 11, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. (if needed) 
Budget amendments 

Tuesday, December 15, 1:30 p.m. 
County Board approves 2016 budget and levy at regularly scheduled board meeting  


Board approves preliminary design plans for Green Line Extension project

The Hennepin County Board today voted to approve the revised preliminary design plans for the Green Line Extension (Southwest LRT) project. The vote follows a joint public hearing held by the Metropolitan Council, the Hennepin County Board and the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA) on August 27 to receive public comment, as required by state statute.

The revised plans were approved by the Metropolitan Council in July. They reduce the estimated cost of the project by approximately $250 million and include design changes in several areas along the proposed LRT route. In addition to the county’s approval, the Metropolitan Council has received municipal consent from four of the five cities along the route: Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Hopkins and St. Louis Park. The Minneapolis City Council votes on September 25.

“It took a lot of hard work to get us to this point, and I think that shows the strength of the support for this project all along the line,” said Hennepin County Board Chair Jan Callison. “I especially appreciate the way in which all of the partners focused on it as a shared investment – ultimately Southwest LRT will be key to our vision for Hennepin County and the Twin Cities as an economically competitive region.”

“This is a big day for mass transit in the region,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, who chairs the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA) and the Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB). "We are on track to create a system that will serve residents across Hennepin County. Our partners are stepping up to ensure that together we move this project forward.”

Service on the 14.5-mile route will begin in 2020 as an extension of the METRO Green Line.


12 members appointed to child protection oversight committee

The County Board voted to increase the maximum number of members that could be appointed the Hennepin County Child Protection Oversight Committee, from a maximum of 11 to 12. The County Board authorized creation of the committee in July to provide direction and oversight for implementation of improvements in the Child Protection system in Hennepin County. These system changes are the result of recommendations from the Casey Family Programs study of county practices and new requirements issued by the state legislature and Department of Human Services. Committee members will include:

  • Ann Ahlstrom, Hennepin County Human Services (co-chair)
  • Mike Opat, Hennepin County Commissioner (co-chair)
  • Janis Callison, Hennepin County Board chair
  • Craig Enevoldsen, Brooklyn Park Police Chief
  • Eric Fenner, Casey Family Programs
  • Anne Gearity, University of Minnesota School of Social Work
  • Jim Koppel, Minnesota Department of Human Services, Children and Family Services
  • Judge Anne McKeig, Fourth Judicial District Court
  • Dr. Alice Swenson, Children's Hospital and Clinics 
  • Darrell Thompson, Bolder Options youth development
  • Noya Woodrich, Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches
  • Tim Zuell, Hennepin County Attorney's Office

Youth sports program fund to improve access to swimming lessons

The board approved a proposal by Chair Jan Callison and Commissioner Peter McLaughlin to dedicate $35,000 of the 2016 Youth Sports Program funding for a pilot project to improve access to swimming lessons for youth and communities who are underserved in Hennepin County. The resolution noted that during the first eight months of 2015, the Sheriff’s Office responded to 11 drownings and 16 near-drownings, and that nationwide, drowning rates for African American children are triple the rate for white children in the same age range. The Youth Sports Program is an initiative that awards grants to improve youth sports and recreation facilities as well as purchase capital equipment in Hennepin County. 


Hennepin County programs get recognition from national association

The National Association of Counties rently gave top honors to 10 innovative county programs.

Early Childhood Development 

Initiatives to improve outcomes for young children who are involved in county support programs include early developmental screening and improved access to quality child care and education for high needs children and young children who are involved in child protection.

Transition from jail to community initiative

Corrections officers work with public and private partners to provide medium- and high-risk offenders with government and community resources to improve public safety and client outcomes.

Safer Home suicide prevention video

A county-generated video, available on YouTube and viewable on mobile devices, illustrates how family members can analyze the risks in their homes, and remove or secure lethal objects when a loved one is in mental health crisis. The video has been distributed to health, crisis, educational, and mental health networks in Minnesota and nationally.

Community navigators

Human Services clients connect with personal liaisons who help them explore alternative ways to meet personal and family needs other than through county resources. Navigators assess and identify client needs, and locate and connect clients to services in the community.

GEO:CODE event

This two-day event last February offered an opportunity for more than 70 Geographic Information Systems professionals and enthusiasts, technology developers and community members to collaborate on new technology applications using Hennepin County open GIS data sources. Participants worked to devise solutions that improve county services, give residents greater access to government data, and make a difference in our communities. 

GIS road centerline data collaborative project 

A partnership between all metro counties, the state, emergency services agencies and the Metropolitan Council, this group worked to improve transportation data collection that can be used for a variety of transportation network issues, including vehicle routing, address geocoding, next generation 9-1-1 routing and location validation and emergency services dispatching.

Identity and access management project

A web-based, self-service resource for secury, user-friendly and efficient access to Hennepin County systems. Users can safely register, access, manage, and use account information and passwords whether they are in an office or in the field using mobile devices.

Super Kinder: Listos para el kinder

Latino families of incoming kindergartners connect with parent educators, bilingual teens and a youth services librarian in a comfortable and culturallysupportive library environment. Presented entirely in Spanish, the program provides early literacy and family support activities to help children succeed in school.

Pedestrian plan

This strategy to make walking a safe and easy choice for county residents will become part of the county’s overall 2030 transportation systems plan and Complete Streets policy. The plan supports walking and improved health outcomes through infrastructure, facilities, enforcement, education and evaluation. 

Digital Counties survey 

Accomplishments included a centralized housing portal, an upgraded election results application, and an automated citations and filing system that is removing paper from the criminal justice system.

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