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Truancy numbers prompt county staff request

More than triple in two years

NEW ULM — Brown County Commissioners will consider adding a part-time probation case aide position for assistance with the Stop Truancy Probation for 2022, at their regular meeting on Tuesday, June 22.

Brown County probation took over the truancy program in October 2019 with 40 estimated maximum client referrals. In the past 12 months, student truancy numbers jumped to 140, according to a June 16, 2021 letter from Brown County Probation Director Les Schultz to county commissioners.

“No one person can manage this caseload alone,” wrote Schultz. “There have been times when we received 20 referrals in one day from a specific school. In September 2020, we received 32 program referrals.”

Schultz wrote that schools reported many students were not turning on their computers during distance learning implemented due to COVID-19. When a student had three unexcused absences, a pre-truancy referral was made.

“Due to the overload, many times that first referral would be over 20 misses,” Schultz wrote. “Many students are now a year behind in their coursework that will need to be made up in order to graduate on time. Attendance will be critical in the upcoming year.”

Schultz wrote in his request that the Office of Justice Programs decided to fund the truancy program for an additional two years with a slight overall funding reduction.

“This alone will save the county $148,612 in the next two years,” said Schultz.

The case aid would work 30 hours a week through the school year, assisting with paperwork, data entry, assessments, maintain attendance rosters, and other work as assigned including meeting with parents and students to resolve attendance issues.

Schultz said the position cost is about $25,000 including benefits.

“We did not fill a probation position when agent Wonn retired in December 2019,” Schultz said. “Her cases were distributed to other agents and our truancy officer came in to fill that position, so our agents are stretched with heavy caseloads at this time. If we don’t fill this position, we will have to cut back on provided services which will result in less high school graduates.”

Commissioners will also consider:

• Authorizing a drainage engineer to do a feasibility study for landowners on County Ditch 16. With issues including a dismissed improvement, unauthorized repair-replacements to sediment-filled tiles and associated drainage problems, it seems a feasibility study would give direction to the system in the best way to landowners.

The goal of a study is to give landowners options, costs, and other information to help make decisions on any large repair projects and/or petitions. When a study is done, landowners would meet with the engineer to discuss observations and project options.

• Approving the 2021 Brown County Performance Measures Report that measures public safety, public works, public health, property records, valuation and assessment, elections, veteran’s services, budget/financial and the environment.

The report will be posted on the county website. It must be submitted to the State of Minnesota by July 1 for program benefits eligibility. Brown County received $3,546 in 2019 for report completion.

• Updates on child day care, child foster care and corporate adult foster care licensing programs.

• Updates on the Family Based Services Program and STAY (Successful Transition to Adulthood for Youth) program.

• Purchase of a new Heartland Express bus.

• Suspending free Heartland Express bus rides as of Sept. 1, 2021.

• Approval of the 2022 Heartland Express budget.

• Adding a new Heartland Express lead driver for the new city bus route anticipated to begin in late spring of 2022.

• The board meeting that begins at 9 a.m., Tuesday, June 22 will be held in the Brown County Law Enforcement Center Training Room. Zoom access is available by calling Brown County Administration at 507-233-6600.

• The Brown County Board of Review and Equalization meets at 7 p.m., Monday, June 21 in courthouse room 204.

(Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nu

journal.com).

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