October 2016 News and Events from Commissioner Linda Higgins

Commissioner Linda Higgins, Hennepin County, MN




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Linda Higgins
Commissioner, District 2

Tina Sanz
Principal Aide

Beverly Hammond
Administrative Assistant

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District 2 serves the cities of Golden Valley, Medicine Lake, north and northeast Minneapolis, southeast Plymouth and St. Anthony.

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Understanding your property tax

Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter.

It's an honor to serve the people of District 2. I'm ready to work with you, steering the kinds of smart public investments that make us all stronger, as you will see below with Hennepin County working our way into budget season.

In this issue of the newsletter, we also present in-depth coverage of some of the issues important to the people of District 2. Check out the articles about respite care for parents with autistic children and an innovative training program at Summit Academy OIC.

Be sure to check out all the great upcoming events this month, and think about subscribing to other interesting topics offered by Hennepin County.


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Top stories

The 2017 budget will improve our community for decades to come.

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County Board approves $759.4 million maximum tax levy for 2017

The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners voted September 20 to approve a $759.4 million maximum property tax levy. 

The board is required by state law to adopt a maximum property tax levy in September. The 2017 maximum property tax levy represents an increase of $32.6 million, or 4.49 percent from last year’s final levy. Last Tuesday, Hennepin County Administrator David Hough presented a proposed budget of $1.9 billion, a reduction of 2.57 percent from the 2016 budget. The board will vote on a final budget on Tuesday, December 13, 2016.

Top priorities

The 2017 budget reflects onetime and systemic changes with a goal of improving conditions for some of the county’s most vulnerable residents, increasing innovation, providing services to residents to promote self-sufficiency, and demonstrating a commitment to solid fiscal priorities and responsibilities that are reflected by more than three decades of AAA bond ratings. 

Child Well-being, which gives children early access to mental health and chemical health services, in-home visits and education for their parents, to identify problems and provide early support

Hennepin Health, a holistic approach to health care for some of the county’s most vulnerable residents, which includes not only preventive physical and behavioral health care, but connections to social services to help them access shelter and employment

Hennepin Housing Fund, a program to fund development and preservation of affordable housing for very low-income adults and families

Hennepin County Career Connections, a program to provide training and public- and private-sector career paths for people who face barriers to employment 

Transit and Transportation, current and future initiatives to increase all residents’ mobility and access to good jobs and education

Adult Detention Initiative, which provides alternatives to jail for low-risk offenders who do not need to be detained, but who may benefit from behavioral health services or who could be supervised using a variety of detention and processing strategies.

Next steps

The property tax levy that the commissioners ultimately approve in December may be lower than the approved maximum, but it cannot exceed the maximum levy adopted at Tuesday’s meeting. In November, property owners will receive a notice that shows the effect of the county’s 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.

The property tax levy is the segment of the budget that is covered by property taxes. The balance of the county budget comes from state and federal aid, as well as from other revenue sources. 

For the proposed 2017 budget, as well as the public hearing schedule, visit hennepin.us/your-government/budget-finance/budgets.

Penn Lowry rendering

Housing and Redevelopment Authority max levy approved at $8.45 million

The board also approved a maximum property tax levy of $8.45 million and proposed 2017 budget of $13.58 million for the county's Housing and Redevelopment Authority, chaired by Commissioner Linda Higgins.

The budget and levy will be discussed at the Truth-In-Taxation hearing, Tuesday, November 29, at 6 p.m. Read more about the Housing and Redevelopment Authority maximum levy.

RRA LRT image

Rail authority approves proposed maximum levy

Acting as the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority, the board approved the agency's proposed 2017 maximum property tax levy at $33 million. That property taxpayers' share is only part of the agency's overall $100.6 million budget. 

The proposed 2017 Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA) budget supports the following priority projects:

  • $33.99 million for Southwest Light Rail Transit, as the project completes engineering and moves to construction
  •  $44 million for the Bottineau Light Rail Transit as the project completes the project development phase and moves toward engineering
  • $7.2 million for the Midtown Greenway Corridor Bridges for project development and construction
  • $6.9 million for debt service 

The 2017 HCRRA budget includes $8.6 million for maintenance of the 55 miles of corridor and staff support for transitways and oversight of HCRRA's infrastructure assets and operational needs.

Read more about the Railroad Authority's maximum levy.

Library tutors

Hennepin County Library tutors support K-12 student success

Hennepin County Library’s K-12 Homework Help program provides free homework tutoring and resources at 12 library locations during the academic year, with funding support from Friends of the Hennepin County Library. North Regional Library, Northeast Library and Sumner are all Homework Help sites.

Each library Homework Help site has one paid lead tutor and four volunteer tutors. The lead directs students to a volunteer who specializes in certain subjects. And while most students are looking for help in core subjects like math, reading and science, tutors can help with any work students bring. See hennepin.us/stories/homework-help for further information.

Volunteers needed

To volunteer with the Homework Help program, contact Barb McKenzie, Library Volunteer Office, at 612-543-8579 or bamckenzie@hclib.org.


Autistic Child

Caregiving for caregivers

Support for Parents with Autistic Children 

The board approved a $350,000 grant to to improve and enhance in-home and out-of-home respite service for parents of children with autism.

Many children in our communities are living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and need services and support now and as they grow into adolescence and adulthood. While most focus is on the children, the parents who strive to meet the demanding needs of caregiving also need attention. This grant will assist in bringing relief to parents who need relief and assistance with the day-to-day care of their children. The help will be specialized and culturally competent.

About 1 in 68 children has been identified with ASD, according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. That is more than 3.5 million children.

The overall goals of respite service providers are to:

  • Provide relief and support to caregivers
  • Improve child functioning
  • Decrease out-of-home placements and hospitalizations
  • Increase safety and permanency
  • Reduce family/parenting stress
  • Offer access to activities and community that may not normally be present

Families living with ASD have unique stresses.  Therefore, it is crucial that service providers are properly trained and equipped to provide specialized care. Communities and service systems must be prepared to meet the needs of children and adults with ASD; otherwise, it takes a toll on all family members.

  • Therapies are expensive and waiting lists are long.
  • Many parents even report having to stop work to care for their child with ASD.
  • Annual medical expenses can range from $2,100 to $11,200.
  • Intensive behavioral interventions for a child with an ASD can cost from $40,000 to $60,000 per year, and the nonmedical costs of special education for a child with an ASD are about $13,000 per year.
  • Cost to individual families extends into lost productivity and other financial problems for communities.

        Autism Statistics in Minnesota: Number of 7-9 year olds identified with ASD:   

Overall – 1 in 48

Somali – 1 in 32

White – 1 in 36

Black (Non-Somali) – 1 in 62

Hispanic – 1 in 80

We are excited about the opportunity we have to enhance the quality of life for parents and children in our communities, providing support that will enhance caregiving and greatly improve the overall quality of life for families.

Autism Speaks is the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. A very helpful tool is the 100 Days Kit for Newly Diagnosed Families.

For more resource information for respite care services and valuable resources visit:


Summit Academy

Training and career development workforce growth 

Summit Academy OIC to provide combined GED education and  construction training services

In Hennepin County 80,000 adults are without a high school diploma or its equivalency. 

At Summit Academy OIC, a new program will provide a “contextualized GED” program – combining classes to obtain a GED with construction training services. Recently, Hennepin County gave a boost of support for the program with a $520,000 grant.   

This Hennepin County grant prioritizes African American and Native American fathers and people between the ages of 18-26 who have not completed their high school diploma or GED. Hennepin County probation officers will identify and refer Community Corrections clients to Summit Academy OIC’s GED and Post-Secondary Education programs and encourage a training-to-career pathway leading to sustainable wages starting at $32,000.

 The first enrollment for correction clients will begin November 21, 2016, with a new enrollment beginning every 10 weeks thereafter. The program is designed in three phases, each a duration of 10 weeks. In the span of 30 weeks, students will graduate with two credentials, a new set of skills and tools, and the confidence and know-how on succeeding in the industry.

Photo: Mandy Nielsen, Summit Academy OIC

For more information visit www.summitacademyoic.org

Blue Line Bottineau LRT

FTA signs off on environmental review for Blue Line Extension LRT 

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has issued a Record of Decision for the METRO Blue Line Extension (Bottineau) Light Rail Transit Project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIS).  

The Record of Decision means the FTA has signed off on the environmental review process for the project. The next step is for the Metropolitan Council as the Responsible Government Unit on September 28 to determine the adequacy of the Final EIS. That will conclude the state environmental review process for the project under Minnesota Rules chapter 4410. After the Met Council vote on September 28, the project will ask the FTA to authorize the project’s entry into the engineering phase.

Here is the link to the Record of Decision:


The Final EIS; including the Amended Draft Section 4(f) and Section 6(f) Evaluation, USACE Section 404 permit application, and Section 106 Memorandum of Agreement, and all appendices; is available online at metrocouncil.org/blrt/feis

Douglas Drive

New Douglas Drive taking shape in Golden Valley

A full reconstruction of Douglas Drive (County Road 102) roadway between Highway 55 and Medicine Lake Road (County Road 70) has been underway since June. Crews remain on track to finish the first key segment, between Duluth Street (County Road 66) and Medicine Lake Road, this year.

The project, which is expected to last into 2017, will improve connectivity, pedestrian safety, traffic flow and aesthetics.  As part of the reconstruction, crews are also replacing and updating all below ground utilities such as water mains, storm and sanitary sewer pipes.

More information about the project, including how to sign up for regular email updates and contact the project, is available at hennepin.us/douglasdrive.

Hennepin County Career Connections

career connections Human Services

Apply for Hennepin County’s Human Services Career Pathway program

Hennepin County is recruiting participants for its Human Service Representative Career Pathway program, which will begin in January 2017.  

As part of this program, participants have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience through an internship with Hennepin County and earn college credits from Normandale Community College. Learn more about the program and hear from program participants (YouTube).

For details, visit Hennepin County’s training programs webpage. Start your application by attending a one-hour information session every Monday at 9 a.m.

Project Pride for Living Learning Center: 1925 Chicago Ave (map)


Metro Transit buses 2,5, and 9

Hennepin County’s Career Pathway Programs are one of several new ways the county is hiring new employees and changing hiring practices to better reflect the work employees do. Other current Career Pathway programs include training to become an office specialist, public sector administrative professional, building operations technician and health advocate. 

Metro Transit employee Rick Carey shows President Obama the controls of a new light rail vehicle

Left: Rick Carey (left) of Metro Transit shows President Obama the controls of a new light rail vehicle during the president's visit to St. Paul in early 2014. Photo from Metro Transit.

Southwest LRT career fair October 18 for professional and technical staff

The Southwest LRT Project is ready to hire more professional and technical staff now that local funding is secured and the environmental review process is complete.

Metro Transit is hiring 71 employees with backgrounds in engineering, construction management, project controls, safety, quality assurance/quality control, finance and administration. Interested applicants can come to the career fair to talk with current employees in the project office located in St. Louis Park, which today includes 45 staff and 86 consultants.

Construction Professionals Career Fair
October 18, 3 to 6 pm
Southwest LRT Project Office,
Sixth Floor, Park Place West Building
6465 Wayzata Boulevard, St. Louis Park, MN 55426

Info at: metrocouncil.org/swlrt/construction

Salaries for these jobs range up to $100,000

Starting annual salaries will range up to $100,000 for construction managers. The office senior engineer and office engineer jobs will have starting salaries of up to $77,000 and $71,000, respectively. Safety and quality assurance/quality control inspectors’ salaries will start at $61,000. The senior administrative specialist’s job will pay more than $53,000.

Check the Met Council website at metrocouncil.org/About-Us/Employment.aspx for postings and application information. Positions will be posted in five waves starting October 2016 through January 2018. For more information, see the Metropolitan Council’s September newsletter.

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Board news

September 8

Grant connects caregivers to respite opportunities

See story above

Rail authority approves proposed maximum levy

See story above 

Southwest Light Rail funding increase helps project move ahead

Hennepin County will increase its funding commitment to the Southwest Light Rail Transit project, helping to bridge a funding gap left by the Minnesota Legislature. Acting as the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority, the Hennepin County Board agreed last week to increase its share of the project by $20.5 million, for a total funding commitment of $185 million, or 10 percent of the project’s capital costs. Combined with a similar increase from the Counties Transit Improvement Board and a plan by the Metropolitan Council to raise $103.5 million in Certificates of Participation – a financing tool used previously by the Met Council and the state – the county’s additional infusion is helping the project bridge the $144.5 million funding gap left by the state, and fulfilling the federally mandated local share. Read the full news release.

September 20

Board approves $759.4 million max tax levy for 2017

See story above

Housing and Redevelopment max levy approved at $8.45 million

See story above

Ridgedale Library renovation moves forward

The board voted to approve a $21.4 million plan to refurbish Hennepin County Library-Ridgedale, in Minnetonka. The interior space of the library has not been updated since 1999, and many of the major building system components, such as air handlers, the chiller plant and electrical systems date from original construction in 1981. Community members were part of the planning process, and the renovation aims to improve access and efficiency for patrons and library staff. Read more about the plan to renovate Ridgedale Library.

Debit cards will ease reentry for people leaving detention centers

The board approved an agreement with Stored Value Cards to provide prepaid debit cards to people who are transitioning out of county detention facilities. Residents earn wages through their jobs or may have money left in their commissary accounts when they finish their sentences. Cutting checks (some less than a dollar) sometimes cost more than the checks were worth. Corrections officials have found that paper checks sometimes become damaged before they can be cashed, and people who do not have bank accounts or valid identification encounter barriers to redeeming them. In addition, the county incurs costs for issuance and printing, fraud prevention and lost check replacement. The cards will allow people to withdraw all of their funds without fees, if they complete the transaction within five days of their release. Read more about the agreement with Stored Value Cards.

County programs garner national awards

Nine Hennepin County programs received recognition from the National Association of Counties. Areas earning NACo Achievement Awards range from environmental education to economic development, health, human services and more. Information Technology also received a nod from NACo and the Center for Digital Government for innovation in technology. Look at the full list of Minnesota winners and program descriptions

Upcoming budget hearings

The County Board will hold a series of budget hearings, which will continue until the final budget and levy are accepted in December. Unless otherwise noted, the hearings are held on the 24th floor of the Hennepin County Government Center, 300 South 6th Street, Minneapolis. Hearings and other important budget documents are at hennepin.us/your-government/budget-finance/budgets.

Look for more news on the Hennepin County website at hennepin.us/news.


Northeast Minneapolis

  • Saturday, October 1, 9 am
    13th Annual Historic Riverfront 5K Run/Walk. This 5K takes you through historic Northeast Minneapolis, along the Mississippi River and over the Stone Arch Bridge. Boom Island Park, 700 Sibley St. NE Minneapolis. stawno.org.
  • Sunday, October 2, 11 am
    Rummage Sale and Harvest Festival. Food, music, games, garden and more. St. Lawrence-New Church, 1203 5th Street. umncatholic.com.
  • Friday, October 21, 1 pm
    Northeast Minneapolis Food Tour. You’ll savor favorites from 6 locations including sausages also served at Twins Stadium, authentic Neaopolitan Pizza, traditional Greek desserts and gourmet cheeses, to name a few. twincitiesfoodtours.com.

North Minneapolis

  • Saturday, October 15, 8am to 1pm
    Health and Wellness – Caregivers Matter. Shiloh Temple Ministries. 1201 W. Broadway Avenue, Minneapolis. eventbrite.com
  • Tuesday, October 18, 9am
    People of Color Career Fair. Meet one-on-one with Minnesota Employers who are ready to hire! U.S. Bank, Midco, State of Minnesota, Allianz, Medtronic, Metro Transit and more. eventbrite.com

  • Wednesday, September 28, 6:30 - 8pm
    Jordan Area Community Council - Gather in the Garden. Hennepin County staff will discuss the benefits of strawbale gardens and how community spaces like this can positively impact crime, safety and behavior in our neighborhood. 24th and Penn Avenue North (strawbale garden). Refreshments provided. jordanmpls.org

North Loop, Minneapolis

  • Sundays, October 2, 16 and 30, 12-6pm
    Movers and Makers Craft Market.The Minneapolis Craft Market is the best place to discover emerging artists and new design talent of the North. Inbound Brewco,701 N. 5th Street. evensi.us

Medicine Lake

  • Thursday, October 13, 7pm
    Plymouth Lions Dinner Meeting and Social. Medicine Lake City Hall, 10609 South Shore Drive. plymouthlions.org

Golden Valley

  • Monday, October 24
    Valley Volunteer Day - Groups or organizations plan and coordinate activities to coincide with Make a Difference Day,  held annually the last Saturday in October, nationwide for  community service. There are a variety of activities.Volunteers can sign up to help out. For more information visit goldenvalleymn.gov
  • Thursday,October 20-31
    Ghoulish Golf. Visit Brookview for a spooky round of golf. Try out the Haunted Hill, the Bat Wing Bunker, the Sand Witch Trap, and more. Big pumpkin-faced putting cups. Fun for kids and beginners.$12.50/person. $7/person if you are in your Halloween orange, or in costume.200 Brookview Parkway. brookviewgolf.com


        St. Anthony

        • Saturday, October 8, 1-4pm
          Fire Department Open House. Fire Station Tours, Try on the Gear, Hot Dogs, S'mores & Lemonade. Hands on Activities. Information here.

        • Wednesday, October 12, 7:30pm
          SAV Chamber of Commerce Coffee Club-Free Networking Meeting Business Networking with local professionals and businesses. The Coffee Shop Northeast, 2852 Johnson Street. Information here. 


        • Wednesday, October 5, 2:30pm-6:30pm
          Plymouth Farmers Market. Parkers Lake Playfield, 15500 County Rd 6, plymouthmn.gov

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