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Commissioners OK T21 tobacco ordinance

BROWN COUNTY — Brown County commissioners unanimously approved updating its tobacco ordinance raising the minimum age for sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years Tuesday.

Action came on a motion by Commissioner Tony Berg, seconded by Commissioner Jeff Veerkamp after brief discussing at the board meeting. The ordinance recognizes the sale of commercial tobacco, tobacco-related devices, electronic delivery devices (including e-cigarettes), and nicotine or lobelia delivery products.

No public comments were received prior to the meeting, in person or virtually on the tobacco ordinance action.

Brown County Attorney Chuck Hanson said the ordinance passage allows Brown County to have some control over fines and get a porton of any fines levied.

“It’s been pretty clearly established that the tobacco industry targets minors. This ordinance is focused on the licensees rather than minor sales,” said Hanson.

Failure to pay any such fine would be grounds for termination or suspension of the vendor’s licensee to sell licensed products, according to the ordinance.

Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls; and Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, discussed the forecasted state budget deficit for the 2022-2023 biennium.

“I am encouraged by the budget forecast showing a surplus in the current biennium, but we still have a sizable deficit to contend with in the next budget cycle,” Dahms said. “We must approach the surplus and deficit with a responsible mindset. This will be a difficult budget year. However, my Senate Republican colleagues and I are prepared to do the hard work to solve the problem created by unsustainable spending exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Torkelson said it looks like reserves will be preserved and there is active consideration of more aid at the state and federal level.

He said the new vehicle services system, MNDRIVE, is working really well and much, much better than the program it replaced.

“It seems like we hired the right company,” Torkelson said.

Torkelson said proposals to return watercourses to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Public Waters Inventory needs to be watched closely.

“This is a really big deal. I don’t approve of how the DNR is handling this,” Torkelson said. “There needs to be an orderly, public process to maintain our drainage and outlets. It’s going to be a battle. There are 600 water stretches across the state. There needs to be a prescriptive review to protect landowners. I want to focus on this.

Brown County Veterans Service Officer Greg Peterson he’s looking for Veterans to apply for $3,000 Distance Learning Support Grants and $1,000 grants for Veterans displaced form work, or other financial impacts.

Distance Learning Support Grants are for Veterans with children in grades K-8 who are now fully distanced or in a hybrid situation with parents financially impacted. Veterans must apply through their County Veterans Service Office.

“There is grant money available. We’re looking for applicants,” said Brown County Veterans Service Officer Greg Peterson.

No public comments were made at the 2021 proposed budget and levy meeting.

“Most of what we do is mandated by the State of Minnesota,” said Brown County Administrator Sam Hansen.

“Raising property valuations to get more tax money is a myth. That is not what we do,” Hansen said.

Changes between payable 2019 and payable 2020 estimated market values in Brown County included a 4.08% decrease in agricultural property, a 5.58% residential increase and a 3.18% commercial/industrial increase. Figures do not include new construction.

Brown County’s 2021 preliminary tax levy was sent at a 2.79% increase over 2020. The total budget increase is 7.3%, from $39,036,602 to $41,868.265.

Impacts of a 2.79% levy increase on the county portion of the tax bill are a $2 annual increase on residential property valued at $75,000; $4 a year on $100,000 property, $12 on property valued at $250,000 and $22 a year on property valued at $400,000.

Comparing 2019 per capita levy rates, Brown County ranked among Minnesota’s lowest levies per capita, 73rd out of 87 counties.

Significant changes to the 2021 budget include a new LEC camera system, new LEC/courthouse (HVAC) chiller, new tools at Lake Hanska County Park, a new deputy and new countywide Microsoft office system.

Fritz Busch can can be emailed @ fbusch@nujournal.com.

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