2014 Iron Range Fiscal Disparities Study

Forward

Our group has been inundated with questions pertaining to why “Fiscal Disparities” is having such an impact on Itasca County. We have tried to not only understand this legislation but to also inform and educate the public by raising questions as to the actual methodology used when applying the tax. The important question which needs to be addressed deals with the law of “unintended consequence” and did the legislators fully understand the long term effects of the law.

Some of the questions for discussion not covered in the legislative report but certainly important are as follows:

  1. What is the impact when applied to a Tax Increment Finance District, (is this property value still included in the tax even though the tax value is not collected but rather applied to the debt)?
  2. Does the public realize this tax is applied to not only new commercial and industrial tax base but also utilities?
  3. What is the impact when a new commercial, industrial or utility structure is built by a private nonprofit company that is not subject to property tax?
  4. Why does St. Louis County hold the power to distribute the money when their largest city, Duluth, is not in the Range Fiscal Disparities District? Ultimately could the relief given to St Louis County by this legislation ultimately relieve some tax burden to other areas like Duluth, not included in the RFD district?
  5. The percentage of participation by Itasca County has increased disproportionately to other counties. Is the formula to the tax so regressive it is stifling Itasca County’s chances of any real economic growth to the point that mathematically it cannot survive?

We at Grand Rapids Voice did contact the Minnesota State Auditor Office and did ask these questions. The answer to question 1 was yes, it does calculate in when a TIF District is applied and can negatively affect the tax.

All other questions have yet to be answered and are pending.

The provisions of the law are described below in the following report along with the impact on all counties affected.

As Grand Rapids Voice, a local nonpartisan civics study group, it is not our intent to make any legal opinion regarding any of the issues discussed here but rather to encourage the people in the community to start the dialogue needed to improve the lives of those living in the regional area.

The citizens of Minnesota are granted the authority to perform a recall election.

248_Constitution_GraphicThe citizens of Minnesota are granted the authority to perform a recall election by the Section 6 of Article 8 of the Minnesota Constitution.

This is not aimed at any elected official. The intent is to inform citizens on the recall process in Minnesota.

Signature Requirement

The amount of valid signatures required for recall election are 25 percent of total votes cast for position at last election.

Process

First, a Proposed Recall Petition must be submitted to the Minnesota Secretary of State specifying the grounds upon which the official should be recalled. These must be either Malfeasance, Nonfeasance, or Serious Crime. If the petition is for a statewide office, it must also include 25 signatures of Minnesota residents who are eligible to vote. The signatures are then checked by the Secretary of State and, if verified, are sent to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The Court then has 10 days to decide if the grounds for recall stated in the petition are sufficient and meet statutory requirements. If the requirements are met a “Special Master” is appointed to hold a public hearing to decide if the allegations in the grounds for recall are true. The Special Master then submits a report to the Supreme Court regarding the truth of the allegations. The Supreme Court will then accordingly decide, based on the report, whether or not the grounds are true and if they are, the court will order the secretary of state to issue a recall petition.

Petitioners will have 90 days to gather signatures of 25% of the number of votes cast for the affected office in the previous election. Once the signatures have been gathered they will be returned to the Secretary of State for verification. If the signatures meet the verification requirements the petition will be sent to the governor and a recall election date will be set.

The election will be a simple “Yes”/”No” ballot in which “Yes” is for the recall and “No” is against. The election will be held in conjunction with a general election if possible. If the recall passes the office will be vacant and an election to fill it will be set.

Special Note

Unlike most states, Minnesota has very specific grounds that must be met for a recall petition to even be circulated. These are Malfeasance, which means that a state official acted unlawfully in their duties as a state official, Nonfeasance, which means a state official failed to perform his duties, and Serious Crime, which means that the official committed a gross misdemeanor or felony. If it cannot be proven that the official has committed one of these acts, it is impossible to recall them.

Abolishment of the Grand Rapid’s Police Commission and Reinstatement of Officers Rank

definition_of_managementWas the law violated when the Grand Rapids City Council overrode the Grand Rapids Police Commissions authority by reinstating the officer to sergeant status?

GRV looked up the MN Statutes under Chapter 419 pertaining to commissions.  Per the statutes, we have copied below, would you agree that the Grand Rapids City Council’s action reinstating the officer’s rank, was legal or illegal?

If they had taken action after abolishing the commission would they have acted legally.  (419.16)

Who is giving legal advise?  Or their not listening!

We at GRV have no opinion to the actions taken as we are not privileged to the personnel material regarding the issue, however we do have concerns that the law is always placed first in any public office actions. As always, feel free to comment on our page.

419.05 DUTIES OF COMMISSION.

The commission shall have absolute control and supervision over the employment, promotion, discharge, and suspension of all officers and employees of the police department of such city and these powers shall extend to and include all members of the police department. (Notice it doesn’t say “Subject to review by the city council.) The commission may not, however, prescribe any residency requirements for the positions under its control, unless approved by the city council.

The commission shall, immediately after its appointment and organization, grade and classify all of the employees of the police department of the city and a service register shall be prepared for the purpose, in which shall be entered, in their classes, the names, ages, compensation, period of past employment and such other facts and data with reference to each employee as the commission may deem useful.

The commission shall keep a second register to be known as the application register in which shall be entered the names and addresses, in the order of the date of application, of all applicants for examination and the offices or employments they seek. All applications shall upon forms prescribed by the commission and contain such data and information as the commission deems necessary and useful.

419.14 COMMISSION VESTED WITH CERTAIN POWERS.

When any city has a civil service commission the council may provide that this commission be vested with the powers and duties of the police civil service commission as set forth herein.

419.15 OFFICERS TO COME UNDER COMMISSION.

Any police officer regularly employed at the time of the creation of the civil service commission shall automatically come under the jurisdiction of the civil service commission.

419.16 ABOLITION OF COMMISSION.

A police civil service commission created under this chapter may be abolished as follows: (1) by the voters in accordance with section 419.17; or (2) by a unanimous vote of the city council. Abolition by the voters shall be initiated by a petition signed by at least 25 percent of the number of legal voters voting at the last general municipal election filed with the governing body of the city requesting that the following question be submitted to the voters: “Shall the police civil service commission be abolished?”