Letter: Commissioners should do the right thing with tax levy

Published 11:37 pm Friday, September 28, 2018

In an Albert Lea Tribune article dated Sept. 13, 2017, newly appointed County Administrator Tom Jensen stated, “Freeborn County is being fiscally conservative… and by and large, we are very lean.”

Jensen, with no county public administration experience, was handed a starting salary of $116,000.

In a recent Tribune article dated Sept. 19, 2018, a 4.8 percent preliminary tax increase was recommended by Jensen. Keep in mind, he originally proposed a 9.3 percent increase. Is this a good example of being “fiscally conservative” or being “very lean?” I do not believe Jensen understands the concept of managing “lean” because he doesn‘t have the necessary background or experience.

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As Freeborn County’s tax paying citizens, we have the final say in how our tax dollars should and should not be spent. It is up to each and every one of us to vote for candidates who will uphold their promises to be good stewards of our physical infrastructure, our human infrastructure and our tax dollars. Our commissioners hired Jensen, a candidate with no public administration education or experience, and handed him a starting salary of $116,000, while there were far more qualified and experienced candidates vying for the position (July 2017 Albert Lea Tribune articles). To me this is a huge red flag that our current commissioners are inexperienced in human resource management. Is this a good example of being fiscally responsible?

Freeborn County is seeking to levy 4.8 percent in taxes, the Albert Lea City Council unanimously voted for a 2 percent preliminary tax levy, the school board just approved a significant proposed levy increase and Albert Lea will become home to a new $24 million dollar sports complex.

Now, add this to the equation, Freeborn County is blessed with a significant senior population. Seniors will receive a meager 1 percent cost of living social security increase in 2019.  We have lost our acute care hospital — we definitely need a hospital — and we’re building a new fire station. Freeborn County taxpaying citizens pay attention. Freeborn County’s appointed and elected public officials need to become better stewards of our tax dollars with an ability to truly see and plan for the much larger picture.

Commissioner Belshan was on point stating “the board needs to “hold the line” after businesses Bridon Cordage, Herbergers, Sterling Drug and Fleet Farm Supply announced their closure in Albert Lea in the last year. There won’t be an Albert Lea if this continues…”

Freeborn County citizens cannot afford Tom Jensen’s proposed tax hike. At this time, it’s just a preliminary figure — commissioners, do the right thing! Taxpayers, please pay attention to what’s going on and what’s not going on in Freeborn County.

To be continued.

Kathy Aase

Albert Lea