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Wright Co. human services board prepares for state shutdown
July 4, 2011

By Ivan Raconteur
Herald Journal Editor

BUFFALO, MN – The potential impact of the expected state shutdown was the main topic of discussion during last Monday’s Wright County Human Services board meeting.

The board, which is composed of the five county commissioners, heard reports from staff members regarding how a state shutdown might affect their departments.

There was some uncertainty, because it had not yet been determined what services were considered essential and which were not.

There was also speculation as to whether the state would shut down, and if so, how long the shutdown might last.

One thing that did seem clear was that some board members do not have much appetite for taking on the cost of state programs.

“The county does not have the financial wherewithal to take on these programs,” Board Member Pat Sawatzke said. “If it’s a state program and it shuts down, it shuts down.”

Board Member Jack Russek agreed.

“We can’t keep bailing the state out,” Russek said. He added that the county is upholding its obligation, and will not increase property taxes to support state programs.

There was discussion about programs that rely on state funding, and it was noted that there is no guarantee that the county would be reimbursed if it expended funds to pay for these state programs.

Don Mleziva, human services director, asked the board to agree to continue to pay contracts and bills for one week after a shutdown, and then determine how to proceed.

Sawatzke said if the county is going to cut off the state programs, they should be cut off (last) Thursday at midnight.

“It makes sense (to cut off the programs) in terms of numbers and black-and-white, but people will be affected,” Mleziva responded.

County Coordinator Dick Norman requested a detailed analysis from Mleziva regarding how a shutdown would affect people and programs.

“The board will need to make difficult decisions rather quickly,” Norman commented.

The board recessed the meeting until Friday at 8 a.m. (after this issue went to press) to see what the judge ruled regarding essential services and to see if the state did shut down, before taking further action.

In written information presented to the board, Mleziva identified the following general concerns:

• the level of state staff/systems remaining in place to support county services;

• delays in funding or interrupted payments to the county;

• length of the shutdown;

• financial stability of the private non-profit network;

• potential that the state will not reimburse the county for work done while the state has no budgets in place;

• mandates imposed by federal and state government and by case law have not been lifted; and

• human needs and business functions have not been suspended while the state does not have a budget.

Mleziva also provided a long list of people, programs, and activities that could potentially be affected during a shutdown.

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