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91st Annual MACo Conference Minutes


General Session - Monday, September 25, 2000

Havre, Montana

L. Harold Blattie, MACo President, Stillwater County
The  91st  Annual  Conference  of  the  Montana  Association  of  Counties convened   at   9:00  a.m.     John   Prinkki,   Carbon   County, served as parliamentarian.   Presentation of Colors and Pledge of Allegiance were led by the Havre National Guard Unit.  Reverend Walter Kirkegaard, First Lutheran Church, provided invocation for the Conference.

Welcome - Phyllis Leonard - Mayor, Havre
 “I welcome you to Havre.  We are truly happy that you selected Havre as your meeting  place.   We hope you have a great  time and  that you  start at the Heritage Center, see the museum, go to Havre-beneath-the-Streets and the Railroad Museum, and then on to Fort Assiniboine.  I have enjoyed working with our Hill County Commissioners.  When I first became mayor, Kathy Bessette and I had a long talk because we knew that mayors and county commissioners were notorious for not getting along.  We decided that if we didn’t agree, we would put that aside and move on to the next project, without carrying any animosity over.  That’s why it’s been wonderful working together and I really do appreciate them.  

Recently, we had lions and tigers being abused and being hauled around town.  We finally settled that and it happened to be the wettest year we ever had.  The beavers were coming in and chewing down all the trees and making dams.  Homeowners were complaining because they were loosing the new saplings they had just planted.  When fall came, in came the skunks.  They started digging up lawns and there were comments about what we would do about the skunks.  One day I answered the phone and this irate voice said, “What do you plan to do with the bobcat that’s in my alley?”  I said, “Is he on a leash or under somebody’s control?”  He said, “Lady, I don’t know anything about that.  All I know is he is hauling my gravel down to his lane.“  
I hope you enjoy our community and that we see you back again soon.”  

 Roger Barber - MSU Northern    
 “In my title, “Provost” means “protector of” the Chancellor.  Provosts work most closely with the faculty and also stand-in for the Chancellor. So, he asked that I welcome you to Northern.  Some of you have been here before.  As many as eight commissioners are alums of this institution.  It is a special pleasure to welcome you back.  If this is your first visit here, I hope that you have time to get to know our campus.  People who come here the first time often have had an image of one building sitting on a hill, with maybe a tree.  They are surprised to see a complete campus with many buildings and wonderful, wonderful programs. We are proud of this institution because it is vital to the health of this State.  

Our education and teacher graduates are the most important source of teachers for small rural schools.  Our nursing graduates are literally the heart and soul of most hospitals and nursing homes in Eastern Montana.  If we didn’t have a nursing program, most of them say they would have to close up because they depend on the students from Northern.  Our business students are an important source of new business start-ups in Eastern Montana.  Our special niche in the University system is technology programs.  Our technology students actually are placed all over the United States and the world.  We find, though, that they deeply miss Montana, this warm, friendly and caring place.”  

Response - Gary Fjelstad, 1st Vice President
“On behalf of MACo, the County Commissioners and the MACo staff, we thank the City of Havre and the mayor.  I am sure you will find that this fine group of people very seldom say a discouraging word; they hardly say anything.  Everything will be so quiet all the people will hardly know that we are here.  We also thank the University for working with the Commissioners to allow us to have this conference here and we look forward to a great time.   Also, we thank the Hill County Commissioners and the Blaine County Commissioners for being the fine hosts for the convention.  With that, we will get started.”

Roll Call
Fiscal Officer  Allan Underdal  conducted roll call  and announced quorum was present with 49 of 55 member counties answering the call.

Resolution - Art Kleinjan, Blaine County
The  seconded  motion  to  adopt  the  Memorial  Resolution  passed  by unanimous consent and is hereby inserted in this record.

Resolution in Memoriam
WHEREAS, the members of the Montana Association of Counties, with great sorrow and a deep sense of loss, wish to remember and honor those members who have been taken by death since the last annual convention of our Associ¬ation; and

WHEREAS, each of these county commissioners has rendered innumer¬able public services to his or her respective county, to the State of Montana, and to the people thereof; and

WHEREAS, the absence of these persons is keenly felt as a great personal loss to their families, friends and colleagues;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Montana Association of Counties in convention duly assembled in Helena, Montana, this 25th day of September, 2000, that the Association does hereby pay tribute to the memory of Commissioners:

  • Donald Gibson, Dawson County
  • Ezra Grover Rickman, Jr., Stillwater County
  • Vern Ballard, Golden Valley County
  • Melvin Bakken, Richland County

                                            
And on behalf of its members and the citizens of the State of Mont¬ana does hereby express grati-tude for their achieve¬ments and cont¬ribu¬tions to the public good of their count¬ies and to Montana.

Congressional Presentations - Senator Conrad Burns, Rep. Rick Hill, Senator Max Baucus
Dwight Mackay,  representing Senator Conrad Burns, presented a video from  the Senator,  who discussed PILT,  timber county  school bill, CARA,  economic development   and transportation infrastructure,  farm income protection and estate tax,  telecommunications,  rural health care, and high tech and biotech industry/jobs in Montana.  Dwight presented a United States flag which had flown over the nation’s capitol.

MACo President Blattie introduced a video from Representative Rick Hill, who discussed the recent summer’s fires, forest funds for schools, PILT, CARA, and other issues.

On Wednesday, Senator Max Baucus outlined his work on behalf of counties and discussed Montana statewide economic development, highway reconstruction funding, PILT and CARA, local government funding for a variety of services provided to Federal lands, and fire disaster funding.  He invited visitors to his weekly Wednesday breakfasts, when visiting Washington DC. 

Resolutions Committee Report - Glenna Obie, Jefferson County
 “I want  to take  a moment  of personal  privilege to say,  “Thank you.” Jefferson County was one of the counties in the State which suffered devastating fires this summer.  It was amazing and gratifying to me how many commissioners from counties  that had no fires called me at home or at the office.  Thank you for your offers of help.  We had staff people come from Fergus County to help; we had offers of help from Yellowstone County and beyond.  I know we weren’t the only ones who received those calls and those offers of help.  Thank you.

I would like to say thank you to the Resolutions Committee:  Gail Jones, Mike Murray, Carol Kienenberger, Albert Brown, Al Ryan, Donna Sevalstad, and Tom Bennett.  

You are receiving right now the list of the resolutions that have been reviewed by the Resolutions Committee.  There were 27 new resolutions and 16 reaffirmed resolutions.  You should have received a packet at your District meeting and a packet of supplemental resolutions which was sent out about two weeks ago.  Then, voting delegates can pick up the five additional resolutions that were acted upon last night at the Board of Directors meeting at the Registration Desk.  So, that’s 27 Resolutions, plus 5, plus 16 reaffirmed.  All of those should be color coded except the five which you will pick up today.  They are color coded according to the priority--high, medium or low.  You will also find in your registration bag the Legislative Guidelines, a yellow-colored sheet, and the Delegate Assembly Rules, salmon colored sheet. 

Take a look at these this evening and run through the resolutions.  If there are any that you wish to debate, the protocol is that those will be segregated out of the packet on Wednesday.” 

President’s Report – Harold Blattie    
 “Given the time,  we will  dispense with  the President’s  Report and  I will blend it with the  Executive Director’s  report with the presentation on Wednesday at noon.  We will coordinate that, as you remember that it has been skipped year after year after year.”

Fiscal Report – Allan Underal, Fiscal Officer
 “I thank Carla Smith for preparing the budget sheets which keep me very well-informed.    In last year’s  FY 2000  budget,  the estimates were pretty exact.  We took in 101.8% revenue; we exceeded by $22,000.  Expenditures were at 97.5% of the budget; a total of 2.5% remained.  So it was very well estimated.  

You will notice the new 2001 budget is less than last year.  Last year the budget was $1,107,908; this budget is $909,816.  That is a little misleading, because there was $219,000 in last year’s budget to pay for the new building.  If you take that out, we did have an increase of this year’s budget of 4.6%.  We ended up the year with $172,415 and with the projected revenue for this year, we would have $107,000 in cash reserve at the end of FY 2001.”
       
A motion to adopt the report was seconded and passed unanimously.

Nominations Committee Report – Harold Blattie
The Nominations Committee presented the following candidates:  President, Gary Fjelstad, Rosebud County; First Vice President, Dean Harmon, Roosevelt County; Second Vice President, Victor Miller, Blaine County; Second Vice President, Howard Gipe, Flathead County.

President Blattie called for further nominations from the floor.  Hearing none, President Blattie invited the candidates to speak.

Candidate Presentations - Howard Gipe, Flathead County
 “When I started at the Highway Patrol, I spent eight years in Chinook.  I spent a lot of time on this campus working with the programs.  I have to say no people are friendlier, nicer and more pleasant to work with than here.

I am in my fourteenth year as a County Commissioner.  I have four years left before I retire.  I represent various boards; I’ve worked with mental health; I’ve spent time before the legislature.  I’ll continue that whether I’m elected or not.  I’m certainly a strong supporter of MACo.  Since I’ve been here, the Worker’s Comp. program is certainly something I’m very proud of.  I am not the Lone Ranger out there.  We need to work together.  I would appreciate your support.”

Victor Miller, Blaine County
“I was seriously considering leaving the County Commission to work for the Forest Service, but Blaine County also had devastation this year.  I am sorry to announce that I will not be head ranger at Lone Pine.  Two teenagers got drunk and cut the tree down.  So now I plan on serving for a very long time.

I often get in discussions with my oldest son.  I do not understand Generation X--no more than my Dad understands us Baby Boomers.   I asked the same question of my son that my Dad asked of me, “What the hell’s wrong with you?”  Frankly, he came up with a better answer than I ever did.  His answer was quite simple, “Our diversity is our unity.”  That’s my message.

County Commissioners may argue back and forth, but that is the message I will carry.  Your second VP will go through two legislative sessions.  I look forward to working with the team and doing what we can to make sure that government is served best at the local level.  I would appreciate your support.  If you vote for Howard, that’s fine, too, because either way this organization will be served well.”
President Blattie announced that the Urban Counties would be meeting later in the day to make their selection for the Executive Committee.

Convention Location Presentations
Convention 2001 will be held in Glendive at Dawson Community College.

Peggy Beltrone, Cascade County
“Before I introduce the two sales directors from our hotels interested in having you come to Cascade County, we welcome you to Cascade County.  We are in the midst of Lewis and Clark heritage celebrations and this would be a very fitting place for you to place your convention.”  
Sales Directors from Heritage Inn / Budget Inn and from Holiday Inn presented advantages for their sites.  

Ted Coffman, Madison County
“On behalf of Madison County and Gallatin County we invite you to come to Big Sky, Montana.  The Holiday Inn in Great Falls says the “Best of Big Sky hospitality.”  Well, we’ll give you the best of Big Sky-Big Sky hospitality.  The upper portion of Big Sky, the skiing area, is in Madison County.  The golf course is in Gallatin County and the sewer runs downhill into Gallatin County.  We have a written confirmation of $55 for the rates.  We have been working with the management for three years to get this and it came in on Wednesday.  Please consider it.  Mike, over there, was talking about dancing girls.  We’ll take a past commissioner from Madison County, Marie, she’s our dancing girl.”

Jennifer Smith Mitchell, Gallatin County
“We have spouses who want to go shopping in Bozeman.  We are going to see if we can get bus service so that they can go into town.  It may even be an alternative vehicle. That’s something else to look forward to.”

A video of the Big Sky facility was presented.

Association Evaluation – Harold Blattie
 “I would like  to summarize  the over-all evaluation of the Association that was sent out last spring  to all of the counties.   I thank you  for taking  the time to
fill it out, especially the comments.  When the leadership is trying to determine the direction of the organization, the comments are really valuable.

MACo currently provides an array of “administrative services” such as answering questions on budget, personnel, procedures, and other general governmental issues to assist member counties in dealing with the day-to-day operations of County government.
VERY VALUABLE:  67
SOMEWHAT VALUABLE:  1
NOT VALUABLE:  0
NO OPINION:  0

I think that this certainly tells the Executive Board that the administrative services are something that the membership finds to be valuable and need to have some focus.

MACo currently provides legislative services for counties, such as lobbying, legislative alerts, legislative impact analysis and interim committee monitoring and reporting for MACo and local government program purposes.
VERY VALUABLE: 49
SOMEWHAT VALUABLE :  27
 NOT VALUABLE:  1
NO OPINION:  1

From the comments, one thing that really came through is that we need  to have commissioners present at the hearings and interacting with the legislators.  So, during this next session there will be more effort to let you know when hearings are going to be, to afford you all an opportunity to get there.

MACo endeavors to provide continuing liaison with the Executive Branch and various State Agencies and provides Counties with status reports and periodic updates
VERY VALUABLE:  37
 SOMEWHAT VALUABLE:  38
NOT VALUABLE:  1
NO OPINION:  2

This is seen as important, but not as important as some other areas.  

The MACo NEWSLETTER, which is published monthly, is
VERY VALUABLE:  36
 SOMEWHAT VALUABLE:  32
NOT VALUABLE:  1
NO OPINION:     0

The Newsletter has grown a bit.  Jane Jelinski, the Assistant Director, has changed the format of it.  There were some fine comments and Jane has taken direction from them and really strives to provide the best publication that she possibly can.

Counties have a need for uniform accounting and taxation software and technical assistance when it comes to acquiring hardware. Should MACo play a role in this area by providing this as a service?
Yes  51
No   19

If “Yes” would you be willing to pay for such a service?
Yes  42
No     3

This leads us to believe is that there certainly is a need for technology assistance to the counties.  It is difficult for many of you to obtain information and technical expertise.  Last year I appointed an ad hoc committee to study these issues, and I’m hopeful of having a report done in the next few weeks.  The Ad Hoc Committee met most of the time with the IT Committee.  There is no proposal or any great solutions, but maybe ways of helping you get the services you need.  

The following services fall under the various insurance program offerings:

  • WORKERS’ COMPENSATION SELF INSURANCE
  • PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COVERAGE
  • COUNTY EMPLOYEE HEALTH INSURANCE
  • NATIONWIDE EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT BENEFIT PROGRAM
  • PERSONNEL SERVICES TO COUNTIES

It comes as no big surprise that Personnel Services ranked very high and is something that you find to be very valuable.  I know those member counties which use Jack on a regular basis understand what an asset he is.  When you go out and purchase insurance, you simply won’t get service like how Jack has saved a number of counties from some employee lawsuits.  

MACo hosts and organizes several meetings throughout the year, they are:

  • DISTRICT MEETINGS
  • ANNUAL CONFERENCE
  • NEW COMMISSIONER ORIENTATION
  • MID WINTER MEETING
  • DES GOVERNOR’S CONFERENCE       (held at midwinter)
  • ELECTED OFFICIALS CONFERENCE       (held at midwinter)
  • LOSS CONTROL / RISK MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE  (midwinter)

Commissioner Orientation was the highest ranked and appropriately so.  When someone comes into the job for the first time, they haven’t a clue.  We will be having another one in December after the election.  All new commissioners will be invited.  If you have a new commissioner in your county, encourage them to attend and fund their way to do it. 

Next, to nobody’s surprise, you found the DES Governor’s Conference to be the least valuable.  It would be interesting to ask the question again now, with all the calamities we’ve had in the State this year.

DES asked if we could hold a statewide meeting on basically about three days’ notice.  All of you would have had to travel to Helena, so we had the METNET Conference.  The cost of $1,000 was funded by DES.  I hope you found that a satisfactory way to get the information to you, because it was very worth the effort to get the information out as soon as possible.  

The Conference Planning Committee and the Executive Board appreciate your taking the effort to fill the survey out.  The information which you provided will help in the direction of the Association in the future.”

Interim Legislative Court Funding & Structure Committee – Mike Hutchin, Lake County
 “This is a draft  proposal.   I think  the Committee did  a great job.   If  you have any  of these people in your area,  contact them  and tell them what you think about this.

Besides myself, the other members of the Committee were:  Senator Walter McNutt, Chair; Senator John Tester; Representative Ron Erickson; Representative John Witt; Judge Kenneth Neil, Cascade County; Judge Joe Hegel, Custer County; Kevin Hart, Justice of Peace; Jim Nugent, Missoula City Attorney; Lori Maloney, Clerk of Court from Butte Silver Bow

The first unofficial draft copy got to me Saturday afternoon.  The draft is about 56 pages.  We can get this copied for you or you can call Judy Paynter at Department of Revenue.

In my eighteen years of being a commissioner I think this proposal is one of the most important decisions for this session, if not the most important in the last several years.  As you all know, it is always hard to go to the Legislature to figure out ways to fund the district court system.

The primary mission of this committee was to bring the responsibility for the district courts into one government body--the State.  We have a MACo resolution that supported that concept.  So, as a representative of MACo I held that position, even though I must tell you, I would not support part of it.  The decision was made to have the district court funding placed with and funded by the State, with one exception.  It allows the clerks of court and employees to remain as county employees and not bring them into the state system.  The clerks, also, felt that they should be left on the county system.  

That’s where I disagree.  However, I represented MACo in that effort.  Early on, the Committee, except those of us who voted opposite, voted to support the concept that the clerks of court should be funded through the state.  Lori Maloney, a clerk of court, and I made the position very strong that there would be opposition from Montana Association of Counties and the clerks of court to put the clerks into a state-funding bill.  As a result of this, the clerks were left out of that draft.  We followed the MACo resolution.  
The Committee has recommended that this be accomplished immediately after the session.  Should this proposal pass, effective July 1, 2001, the district courts would be with the State of Montana.  

The Committee also recommended that there be a judicial council to run this system, made up of district court judges, an attorney and some other individuals.  If you are interested, I would get this information to you.

The district court costs would be submitted as part of the judiciary budget request.  Counties would continue to provide office space at no cost to the state.  Most of you I talked to agreed that we should continue to fund the space in the courthouse.  The committee wants local governments to be able to supplement the state’s judiciary budget, of course, if necessary.  So this proposal is intended to keep our ability to levy district court costs up to whatever level you are--first class county, second class county and on down, six mills per class.  Revenue assumptions are that there was $25 to $26 Million of district court costs around the state of which counties bore about $5 Million directly.  In terms of the clerks of court, it was all the counties’.  So the clerk of court dollars we are spending we will continue to fund.  The balance of that $26 Million (about $20 Million) will be funded by the state district court system.  Some of that will be through the current fees which will continue to go to the state and transfer to that program.  (Harold might give a little more detail about that.)  In summary, the state general fund costs would be $23.3 Million in Fiscal 2002, and $24.6 Million in 2003.  The funding transfers would take care of most of that.  The net cost to the State general fund as being considered by the Legislature, would be $1.7 Million in 2002 that they would have to come up with and $2.4 Million in 2003.  

We will have a public hearing on Thursday, November 16 in Helena at Carroll College at the campus center, 9:00 am. to go through this unofficial draft to come up with official draft legislation for the next session. If you cannot make that meeting, you could submit something through MACo or myself or submit it to Sandy Lang of the Court Funding and Structure Committee, Box 5805 in Helena.

Who would be responsible for public defenders?
The State of Montana.  That proposal clearly lines out that there would be offices of public defenders with each district, funded by the State.

Did you say that the counties would still be responsible for supplemental budgets?
Yes.  Missoula County is an example.  They were levying six mills and chose to provide more for the district court system than any other county chose to do.  So they supplemented district court costs with their own funding.  You can choose to do that.  If you feel that your district might needs something for while or needs to do something different, you as a county can choose to supplement the state funding of that court system.  You are not obligated, but you can.

Do you anticipate the state taxes to the local taxpayer be increased, decreased or stay the same under the new system?
I really couldn’t answer that.  It depends on whether the Legislature funds this or not.  We are assuming it will come from the State general fund and each session would wrestle with those numbers.

All tax dollars come from some place and my question is how much is it going to cost to fund the system under state guidance compared to local?
We tried to keep it revenue neutral.  The local system would stay as we know it today.  There would still be 22 judicial districts, except there would be 8.5 FTEs added to the state budget to administer the program, instead of all the clerks and payroll clerks we have throughout the state.  It’s intended to be close to revenue neutral, no increases, just coming from different pockets.

Are public defenders included in this assumption?
They are.  The public defenders would be employees of the State.

What about, then, their services to justice courts?
I just got this on Saturday afternoon.  I don’t if they would be responsible to JP courts or not.  I will have to look that up.  

It’s an interesting question, because in our JP system, those PD services always go to district court and the justice court.  If it’s still the case? 
I can’t tell you if that’s in this draft.

In the various places where the district court judges have apparently ordered commissioners to do A-B-C or D, does that mean that we deal simultaneously with the state assumption and those rules?
No.  I doubt that.  I assume that ability exists with the judges; if they can’t fund it through the state system, they may go after the state for that--to have a court order for the state to have additional funding.  I’m not sure that the proposal clearly defines that.

The district court funding sources on page 12 are based on the FY 98 values.
That’s correct.  That’s the most current data that they had available.

I’m looking particularly at local option tax.  If we change this significantly, will we take those local option taxes out of the court system?
I don’t know that we have the answer to that.  Harold’s committee may have a little more details in terms of the funding and where it’s going to come from, the impacts and how to apply to the votes this fall.  

In the draft, what was the impact and reaction from the judges?
There was a rumor floating around that the district judges had opposed, based on court reporter positions.  The court reporters can be in three categories right now--employees, independent contractors or a combination.  That was in the proposal because each district was quite unique.  Judge Joe Hegel, Miles City, has seven counties in his judicial district.  That makes a difference in how he runs the court system and how he uses court reporters.  In the discussions with the committee, we wanted to leave all three options available to each judicial district for court reporters.  

Judge Larson had a draft bill that wasn’t anywhere close to this.  There were 26 pages.  This proposal is the only one I know of in this area that you can get a copy of.  It’s 56 pages.  This is the unofficial draft copy.  As of Thursday this should turn into the official draft.  

You indicated that clerks would be the responsibility of local government.  Would the clerk of courts be elected officials still?
Yes.  The district clerks of court remain exactly as they are today.  The  keeper of the records within courthouses would be a local function and a local expense.  

What will happen with juvenile detention?  Will the state take over all juvenile detention?
All of the duties and responsibilities of the chief probation officer and staff would be under the state.  

As you all know, there will be companion legislation.  The juvenile probation officers have a bill to go into a different category of pay.  It would hurt all of us locally to be able to fund it, because the pay matrix would go up substantially.  The court reporters also have legislative proposals.  So this bill can be tugged every which way in terms of interests.  I think we can probably eliminate at least two of the political problems with state assumption of this cost--the counties and the clerks of courts.  I’m not sure we can do that with the judges.  Judge John Larson out of Missoula has had a problem with this.  So we will see this pulled apart and that’s what we want.  We want to come out with the best thing possible and hopefully it will pass.  MACo has been working on district court funding for many years.”

Interim Legislative Local Government Funding & Structure Committee – Harold Blattie
 “Both of these committees were created as a result of SB 184.  The court committee looked  at the court structure  issue but  really didn’t delve into the finance  part  of it.   It  deferred  that to  the Local  Government  Funding  and Structure Committee.   The Committee  started meeting  over a  year ago but bogged down during the  special legislative session  because it relied heavily on Department of Revenue staff to provide the numbers. We ended a couple of months behind.  The amount of information that this committee has had to digest is absolutely enormous.  

The committee members were: Representative Robert Story; Rep. Maryanne Guggenheim; Senator Linda Nelson; Senator Lorentz Grosfield; Susan Nicosia, city council person; Patricia Cook, Lake County Treasurer; John Lawton, city manager, Great Falls; County Commissioner Sue Olson; Mary Bryson, Director of Department of Revenue, and myself. 

Sue Olson, Musselshell County
“It was a privilege to serve  on this committee, even though we got brain-overload  most  of the time.  In answer  to the question  on district courts,  the county will keep the property tax mill and the local vehicle option tax.  The basic question is why the State needs 8.5 FTEs for the administration of this.  We talked about changing the fiscal year and decided to leave it as it is.  

We talked about auditing some of our smaller districts that are less than the $200,000.  We need to have some kind of audit but we need a good idea on how they can afford to do that.  We did think that the tax commissions could do it and it could be placed under the budgetary process of the commissioners so that everyone would know what was going on.

The Committee wants to improve relations between the State and government subdivisions and so we had a committee to review that--two from the house, two from the senate, two from the cities, one from the county and one from the school boards.

We had a request from Senator Stang to consider funding for local growth policy.  He supported an increase of 1% in the bed tax.  It is an option and perhaps something MACo needs to look at.

The Highway Trust is loosing money and will go to the Legislature to get that appropriated.  Highway Trust needed $2.8 million.  
The reality transfer tax is one thing that we would like to see happen.  They met with the realtors to see if they could get along with it.

We worked to follow entitlement funds and the requirements.

I brought my notebook that gives an analysis of what we considered and for some of the proposals.”

Robert Story, Representative
“It was  time to  take a  look at  this situation  to see  if we  can  rearrange
            
financing for state and local governments so that they won’t have problems.  These two committees considered that the State could take over some responsibilities from local government--use that money that we are now sending back to fund those programs, leave the property tax money at county and city levels to fund programs that remain there, instead of having it go 360 degrees before it’s even spent. We are mainly looking at the State to take over some programs like district courts and at the counties to retain their programs; and along with that lifting the statutory mill caps so that those mill levies that are now being used to fund the district court and the welfare system are available to fund county and city programs.  

Counties have different sources of money, like forest receipts, which had a lot of discussion.  But every county is short of money because of things like the business equipment tax cut.  The State takes some portion of the general fund and makes that the statutory appropriation, so again counties, cities and miscellaneous districts are on hold.  That’s where this entitlement share comes, which would set dollar amounts with some type of growth factor.  That money would be sent back to local governments.
At the same time we may go back to SB 184 and make some adjustments on caps on spending.  I think most counties did a really fine job with setting mill levies.  We’re looking at leaving decisions with local governments on how much money they are going to spend.  

This is very complex and difficult.  Not a lot of legislators know about it and understand it.  So if it’s going to proceed, it must proceed with the support from the Montana Association of Counties.  If your members are not behind this, then with the legislators it will be a tough sell.  Once pieces start falling off this program, we can’t do any of it, because it’s all a big balance.  It would be hard to take over district courts and not do the rest of these things.  

We will have a big meeting on the 6th to finalize where we are going.    We are going to hold our hearings on METNET with 13 sites in the State so that you folks can have a chance to participate without having to come all the way to Helena to do that.  They will be in November, around the 14th or 16th.”

Harold Blattie
“One of the guiding principles we adopted early on was an attempt to eliminate these big transfers.  Obviously the more transactions that take place, the bigger the possibility for error.  Literally, I chased money around in circles with tax dollars sent to Helena, sent to schools through the mill levy matrix, and back to Helena again.  So I feel quite strongly that we need to eliminate all possible steps.  There are $800 Million in transfers between state and local governments annually.  We cannot eliminate all of that, but I hope that there will be at least a standardization of the reporting.  One of the challenges the committee had was to find numbers and verify their accuracy.  

Another of the principals was to de-earmark funds.  For every project that came along, we’ve had to find a funding mechanism.  So a funding mechanism has been attached to each program.  Several years ago there were so many earmarked funds that it was very difficult for the Legislature to deal with the budget.  We really tried to de-earmark and eliminate a lot of those earmarked funds.  Now, the programs will be handled differently.  As funds are collected, we need to be flexible and make some transfers.  The overall principle is that every entity will be held harmless.  

We wanted a county-by-county and municipality-by-municipality breakdown.  To the State, when one is a half million dollar loss and one is a half million dollar gain, overall there is no change. So from that came the development of the entitlement share.  The entitlement share will be a statutory appropriation.  The legislature doesn’t even look at it.  It’s not a specific part of HB 2.  That gives us a great deal of stability and lot higher level of trust that the Legislature won’t tinker with it.  It doesn’t mean that they can’t; but it certainly raises the level of difficulty for them to do that.  The proposed growth factor is to provide a stable source of revenue with some growth potential.  It allows the counties and municipalities to participate in the economic condition in the State of Montana.  Lately, the economic activity and the tax receipts were substantially greater than they have been.  

However, it doesn’t make any difference for property taxes. We were able to include SB 184 reimbursement program, but that ends at this session.  It was required to be in the governor’s proposed budget for this next year. There is information on the Department of Revenue home page.  I know you’ve had difficulty accessing that and I think they have everything fixed.

The next meeting will be October 6 and I urge you to attend if possible.  

You indicated the junk vehicle would stay in the county where it was generated.  Is it the same for refunds--they no longer go to the weed fund?
It’s the other way around.  All motor vehicle funds will go to the State.  The junk vehicle program would be an appropriation in the Legislature.

In the transfer of funds from the State to the county and the county to the State, the State’s transfer is getting worse.  Do you think this will help?
Without a doubt it will help.  All of those problems with the Department of Revenue in receiving transfers were generated by the Department’s inability to audit.  They are having a very difficult time in securing qualified personnel to do that.

Some of the transfers that we have not received are Taylor Grazing.  Isn’t it a matter of splitting out the money from the Department and sending a check?  It took them six months to do that.  Also, for our sanitarian inspections of establishments last year, they were many months late.  They had some personnel leave, but they seemed to not bother trying to find someone to accomplish that task.

I can tell you right now that they have eight vacancies within that department for auditors.  The vacancies have been there for quite some time because of the salary level that the Department of Revenue is authorized to pay.  In fact, they’ve lost employees to the Department of Transportation.  I hope the Legislature will be able to figure out some way of resolving that problem.  I very strongly believe that the majority of the problems are personnel related.  They need to come up with some mechanism to provide the Department the means to get that done.  I think all of us here are experiencing the same frustrations.

The entitlement share program is almost parallel to school equalization, where you get a base amount and then it’s finished on population.  Many of us in the rural communities feel that equalization definitely is not equal because it is based on population and not classrooms. We still have to fund classroom costs, which are a basic cost.  This is parallel for those who are struggling to provide the minimal level of services for the people left there. 

I agree with you, having spent nearly twenty years as a school board member.  The details of this program are still being worked on.  I will tell you that population is a factor but it is the intent that the basic entitlement be there for that amount of time.  Then, whatever that base may be, the automatic growth factors, based on the economic activity of the county, and a portion based somewhat on population, is part of the proposal.

I would like to remind everybody that the same people who have to replace that general fund money are now funding us at the county level.  I think some of what we are trying to do here is to address that, but I don’t want to get into a position where we are saying to farmers, ranchers and businessmen that we are in this to keep the transfer.  What I am saying is that the closer you keep your dollars to home the more efficient it’s going to be.
The committee has been very, very cognizant of the overall picture through the process, so that no one is going to receive a great windfall.  The intent is to keep the overall effect as neutral as possible.
 
(Hutchin) I think everybody here knows that in the State of Montana, almost everybody pays taxes one way or the other.  As a County Commissioner I would pay more in income taxes than I do in property taxes, so I support the state with more than I am my own local government.  As a farmer and a rancher I would pay a lot more in property taxes than I am paying in income taxes.  So it is different and I think we need to pay attention to that.  A taxpayer is a taxpayer even if it does come from a different source.

(Story)  In the income tax system, about 50% of the people paid 25% of the income taxes, 25% paid 25%, and then about 10% of the people in the State paid 50%.  It’s really a progressive system, so 40% of the State general fund is paid by about 9,000 people in the State.

From the Department of Revenue there seems to be an overall view of local governments as one big lump, so that if cities are gaining on something and counties are loosing, or visaversa, they say it’s neutral for local government.  Or if five or six counties gain revenue and the rest all loose, it’s neutral for local government.  A snapshot in time might not be too bad if change is very slow.  But in some counties, things change in a big hurry, like loss of a couple of gold mines as in my county.  I’m concerned that the Committee stay aware that it may end up with some big winners and some big losses and that is not neutral for local governments.  I hope that the Committee would pay attention to the figures county-by-county and city-by-city and not just say at the bottom it looks neutral.

That is exactly why we have demanded a full breakout detail of the jurisdiction to make every entity whole, not just the net bottom line.  As we have seen in the past years, we do not have a revenue source that is secure.  The value of our property tax base has been repeatedly cut, virtually in every session.  If we do things the same way that we’ve always done, we are going to get the same thing we always have.  I really am optimistic that we will be able to recommend some changes that will provide stable, reliable funding source well into the future.”

Health & Welfare Issues – Bill Kennedy, Yellowstone County
“The  Health  and  Welfare Committee  members are  Dale Sheldon,  Milt
Markuson, Ken Engellant, Jack Atthowe, Kathie Bailey, and Cliff Bare, Resolution-wise,  we  have  solid  waste  charges  and  funding  for  local board of health inspections.  The Committee worked with the Department of Health and Commissioner Tom Bennett from Harlowton, who owns a restaurant, will be working with us.  We invited the restaurant association to be involved.  We also have opposition to the state mandated assumption of welfare, which we passed two years ago, just in case we have new legislation.  We also have the county curfew for minors with Hill County working with us.  

 We have a resolution for funding the summer employment program.  We heard from many counties, HRDCs, schools, and non-profit providers all over the State about funding for the summer youth program.  We wrote to the Governor for supplemental funding of the TANF program.  The Governor wrote back that the money was already encumbered and he couldn’t look at those dollars.  During the special session, we had over a hundred legislators sign a letter to the Governor asking for his support for funding the summer youth program.  It never got off the ground and so we have a resolution.      The mental health resolution is to try to make some sense out of mental health funding.  It’s more of a general resolution.  Senator Bob Keenan has been working on legislation, talking to others around the state.  We may go into partnership for a piece of legislation on adequate funding for mental health services or we may come with our own legislative bill.  The governor has agreed to an $11,000,000 supplemental to bail out the mental health system this year. We heard reports of being anywhere from $15,000,000 to $30,000,000 over the biennium short.  Elected officials have an obligation to take care of citizens who incapable of caring for themselves.  So we wrote a letter to the Governor with four recommendations on the 15th of September and we are waiting for a response.  (Letter attached.)

The Local Government Interim Committee has recommended that the State fund the welfare program.  We suggest that all counties pay a set dollar amount to the State for public assistance services based on the average level of dollars paid by the county for the past five years, ’95--’99.  The payment would be stable for five years, 2001--2005, and would sunset to provide an opportunity to adjust funding.  This does not preclude the county from operating a medical or general assistance program.  The Department and each county commission will enter into an annually renewable cooperative agreement outlining the level of services to be shared by the State for programs within our counties.  Standards for information sharing and reporting will be established in the Department’s agreement.  County commissioners will be responsible for hiring the county director (I think we’ve settled on a four-person hiring panel.).  A committee consisting of two county commissioners and two department staff will be formed to mitigate disputes between the State and the county.  We are still talking about who will be the arbitrator if we cannot settle.  Community advisory committees and community operating plans will have a county commissioner involvement.  We wanted to make sure that counties are working cooperatively with the State and it is not just a state-run program.  We have a resolution titled, “Public Assistance Cost and Administrative Authority”.  Kathie Bailey helped draft this in a meeting with Hank Hudson and Jack Atthowe.

The resolution leads to the next letter we wrote to the Governor on August 8.  It goes into costs that were an unpaid fiscal obligation.  We have yet to hear from the Governor.”   

NACo Western Interstate Region (WIR)
 “One exciting thing is that the Forest Aid bill passed.  A lot of you would    appreciate that.   It was exciting project because there were so many members in that coalition.  There were over 600 members; now the effort is going to switch to    using that coalition for further legislation that supports our Western values.

The CARA legislation is still in the Senate. A letter signed by 63 senators is encouraging the  leadership to bring  this legislation to the floor.   Agreement in the leadership is that PILT will be fully funded  and that there would be protection of private property rights. Those two are very important to Public Lands.  The Public Lands Committee asked that I write to the Committee supporting CARA, but as part of our support added consideration for the forest.  The Public Lands Committee may be adding an amendment for the fire season this year.  As a result of the fires, we are going to see a spread of noxious weeds, so we would like to have some funding established for that.

I am leaving Wednesday for the WIR Board Meeting in Jackson Hole and I would be glad to carry any resolutions that you would like to present.”

Blattie announced that Yellowstone County will host the Western Interstate Region (WIR) Conference in Billings in May of  2002.  
 

The General Session concluded until Wednesday.
Wednesday, September 27, 2000
General Session

President Harold Blattie, Stillwater County, called the session to order.  

Resolution of Appreciation - Gary Fjelstad, Rosebud County
MACo Vice President  Fjelstad presented a  Resolution of Appreciation to Hill County  and  Blaine County  Commissioners,   spouses  and  staff  for sponsorship of this Conference.    The motion to accept the Resolution as read passed unanimously.

Roll Call – Allan Underdal, Fiscal Officer
Roll call indicated that quorum was present

Resolutions - Glenna Obie, Resolutions Committee Chair
Chair Obie extended thanks to Executive Director Gordon Morris and staff for the work on  resolutions and  preparation for the Conference.

She reviewed  the Legislative  Guidelines and  Delegate Assembly Rules.The following resolutions were segregated for debate:

  • 2000-02
  • 2000-05                
  • 2000-07        
  • 2000-15
  • 2000-19
  • 2000-24
  • 2000-25
  • 2000-28        
  • 99-4
  • 99-9
  • 98-17

Additional Resolutions from Board of Directors meeting

  • 2000-29        
  • 2000-30        
  • 2000-31
  • 2000-32
  • 2000-33

Motions to reconsider were seconded and failed for:  

  • 2000-22
  • 2000-26
  • 2000-27

Resolutions Debate
Resolution 2000-02:  911 Accounts--Administrative Costs & Interest    
Allan Underdal, Toole County, MACo Fiscal Officer
“We discussed in our Taxation, Finance and Budget Committee meeting.  I move to amend the “Now, therefore, be it resolved” section to take out that last sentence and insert into section 2 ”upon passage and approval”.   
After second was received, the motion to amend carried.

Resolution 2000-02, as amended, passed.

Resolution 2000-05:  County Auditor Duties
Allan Underdal, Toole County, MACo Fiscal Officer
“Our Tax, Finance and Budget Committee discussed this at our meeting yesterday.  I move to amend to put in another sentence in the end of the Resolution.  In the “Now, therefore, be it resolved”, under 2, add a sentence, “If a majority of the county commission orders payment of a disapproved claim, the auditor may appeal the decision to District Court.”  This allows the auditor to come back and appeal the decision.  This affects seven counties.”

Bill Murdock, Gallatin County
“I move to amend further, add “within seven (7) working days; otherwise the disapproved claim will be paid.”  Sometimes you have claims that are held up, a vendor should be paid, and this sets a time frame so we can get the approval or disapproval officially.  Alicia Pichette, the auditor from Lewis and Clark County, and I both feel this is a very workable solution to the situation”   
    
The seconded motion to amend the amendment passed.

Dean Harmon, Roosevelt County
“If this is a litigated situation, is the County fighting the County?”

Bill Murdock, Gallatin County
“I believe the district court would still have the final say.  It would be reasonably little different than it was originally, except the auditor takes it to district court instead of the county commission.”

Alicia Pichette, Lewis and Clark County Auditor
“As it was originally written, I had concern that it would remove the internal controls.  If a claim were disallowed, that appeal is taken to the district court, and the district court orders the payment of the claim.  If the board of county commissioners orders the payment of a claim and overrides the auditor, it is my opinion that you have removed your internal controls.  You left the board of county commissioners in a vulnerable position.  So, by taking it back to the district court in an appeal situation, you reinstate the check and balance.”

The amended amendment was seconded and passed.

The vote to adopt Resolution 2000-05, as amended, passed.

Resolution 2000-07:  Distribution of BLM Royalty Payments
Kyle Butts, Powder River County
“Public Lands Committee recommended and I move this be high priority because it affects all counties.  These payments would come as royalty payments down to the counties and they would be classified as prior year receipts so it would increase the PILT.  It would be a larger pot back to the State which would be divided among all the counties by their formulas.”

The seconded motion to move to high priority passed.

The vote to adopt Resolution 2000-07 as prioritized passed.

Resolution 2000-15:  Extending Time for Publication Notices
Jennifer Smith Mitchell, Gallatin County

“Our fiscal officer said that this notice period should be left open.  It should say “not less than 21 days before the action”.  Bids need 30 or 45 days to respond.  So the 28 days is way too limiting, that we are limited to 28 days.  We just want to make sure we have a long period of time for a longer project.”

Bill Kennedy, Yellowstone County
“The 21 days was not enough time so we extended it to 28 days.  We wanted to make sure there is some closure.  If you have it open-ended, you are going to have no definite timeline at all.  We were looking for a week more because our finance director felt we would get it all handled in 28 days.”

The vote to adopt Resolution 2000-15 carried.

Resolution 2000-19:  Residency Requirement for County Commissioners
Todd Devlin, Prairie County

“How would you like me to come to your county, stay there for a year and run for county commissioner?  We ought to kill this resolution and lobby to change the legislators’ requirement to two years like ours is.”

Gordon Morris
“The current law requires that you live in the county for a period of two years prior to general election and live in the district on the day that you file.  There’s no date-certain for how long you have to live in the district.  In Granite County the candidate who is running against Jim Waldbillig moved into Waldbillig’s district and filed on the same day.  This would make county processes consistent with other elected positions by changing the requirement to living in the county one year preceding the general election.  It changes from two to one year and eliminates residency in the district.  This comes up all the time.”

The vote to adopt Resolution 2000-19 carried

Resolution 2000-24: Railroad Crossing Closures
Gary Fjelstad, Rosebud County

“We are working on a different approach with the railroad companies.  We will be meeting at the MACo office to do a little more study on this, so I move this resolution “do not pass”.”

The seconded motion for “do not pass” on Resolution 2000-24 passed.

Resolution 2000-25:  Detention Costs for DOC Inmates
Dan Gutebier, Park County

“The Justice and Public Safety Committee recommends and I move that the priority be changed to high priority.  The Department of Corrections reimburses all counties on those held in jails from the date of conviction.  Sometimes they are in the jail for a lengthy time before conviction.  This would move the reimbursement back to the date of incarceration upon a conviction.  I assume that the rating was because not all counties have jails.  However all counties participate with their prisoners in regional jails or their own jails.”

The seconded motion to move to high priority carried.

The vote to adopt Resolution 2000-25 carried.

Resolution 2000-28: “Full Entitlement” Share
Art Kleinjan, Blaine County

“I’m not here to oppose this resolution, but I would like clarification.  I attended several of the Local Government Funding and Structure Committee meetings but we do not know the formula for the entitlement program.  The minute that a formula for entitlement comes up in the Legislature that doesn’t agree with any of us, there we are.  I want to know if anybody else has a problem with that entitlement, even though it says “full entitlement”.  We don’t know the formula or how the entitlement money is broken down to the counties.”

Todd Devlin, Prairie County
“Our district brought this in.  It seems like in this State it’s so easy to vote for reduction in taxes, especially property taxes.  The counties have to be whole and if it’s going to be that easy to get something on the ballot statewide, then we’d better have the Legislature take their responsibility to make sure that we still can run these counties.”

The vote to approve Resolution 2000-28 carried.

High Priority Resolutions

  • 2000-01    Court Reporter Fees
  • 2000-03    Funding for Local Board of Health Inspections
  • 2000-04    Solid Waste Service Charges
  • 2000-08    Weed Management Funding and Liability
  • 2000-09    Amendments for County Noxious Weed Control Act
  • 2000-10    Prevailing Wage Rate Requirements for Local Government
  • 2000-11    Bidding Requirement for Local Governments
  • 2000-12    Return School Tax Collections to Localities
  • 2000-13    Complying with County Personnel Policies and Procedures
  • 2000-17    Repeal County Classification
  • 2000-18    Funding for Growth Policies
  • 2000-20    State or Federal Recreation Site Access and Maintenance
  • 2000-21    Excluding Optional Work from Overtime Compensation
  • 2000-23    State Restoration of County Roads

A seconded motion to adopt these resolutions as high priority carried.  

Medium Priority Resolutions
 (All Medium Priority resolutions were segregated for debate and voted on separately.)

Low Priority Resolutions

  • 2000-6       Herd District Fencing
  • 2000-14    Allowing Publication to Provide Notice of Public Sale
  • 2000-16    Repeal Appointment of Counsel in Paternity Cases

A seconded motion to adopt  these  resolutions  as  low priority carried

Re-affirmed Resolutions
Resolution 99-4:  State Funding for District Courts
Jim Deckert, Dawson County

“have some questions about this in relation to the funding.  We have good relationships with our judge and we have never denied court funds or anything like that.  Based on the premise that the further away from home we get, the less efficient government becomes, we all are concerned about where the money will come from.  If they do try to attach some of our non-tax revenue that would affect us.  I think we should have a little more thinking going into this.”

The vote to reaffirm Resolution 99-4 carried.

Resolution 99-9:  Increase Local Elected Officials Salaries
Mike Murray, Lewis and Clark County

“The Resolutions Committee proposed the following changes:
Page 1, 74-2503, “fiscal year 2005”, District One proposed 2006.  The rationale is that someone taking office this coming January would not have to implement the changes.  
Page 1, in the last underlined section the proposed change would add “with no fewer than two commissioners concurring.”  Ultimately the county commission will have control over the salaries that are set for elected officials.

The bottom of page two states, “salary and benefit increases…are to be funded as a tax liability outside of the calculations of local government authority….”   With this, these raises will be outside of the caps on the budget.”

Carol Kienenberger, Phillips County
“District One had come in with a radical change to this.  We met with the Resolutions Committee and these are the changes that we thought we could live with.  Adding another year on to the term of it would take us off the hook if we were running now.  We’re really not sure some of the counties in Eastern Montana can reach that level by 2005 or by 2006; but if by 2006 it’s not working, we could come in and amend it again, if it does pass.  

We were ready to take out the entire county compensation board.  The way salaries are calculated now, with a spreadsheet to figure out on all the base salaries, this would remove all of that and you could figure your COLA on the previous year’s salary.  By adding the language you did, it would still be up to the commissioners to decide on increases, with help from this compensation board.”

Glenna Obie
“The Council of County Officials consists of the President or Chairman or lead person for each of the associations--Clerks and Recorders, Magistrates, Treasurers, Sheriffs and Peace Officers, etc. and of course MACo itself.  The Council of County Officials did the research and proposed / recommended this.”

The seconded motion to add “2006” and “with not fewer than two commissioners concurring” passed.

Milt Markuson, Carter County
“Where is the money going to come from?  You all need to remember that this is going to tax real property.  I believe it’s our business as county commissioners not to add any more taxes on real property.  I am very much against this.  I want you to think about where the money will come to pay this.”

The vote to reaffirm amended Resolution 99-9 carried.

Resolution 98-17:  Clarification of Deputy Sheriff Salaries
Jennifer Smith Mitchell, Gallatin County

“In the sentence “Beginning on the date of the first anniversary of employment”, I move to insert “as a deputy sheriff with the department”.  The existing language, without that addition, will allow detention officers, clerks, dispatchers or anybody else to count their time in this compilation.  Also there is a suggestion to grandfather current employees and possibly a cap at 15 or 20 years.  I don’t have any language on that.  I did check this out with Jack Holstrom, too, and he said that was a good suggestion.”

The motion to amend was seconded and adopted.

Carol Kienenberger, Phillips County
“Phillips county disagrees with the proposed strike-out of the “years of service during any year in which the salary was set at the same level as the salary of the prior fiscal year may not be included in any calculation of longevity increases”.  I move to remove this strike-out.”

Ted Coffman, Madison County
“I believe that’s consistent with what we lived with in Madison County a couple of years ago, when we froze the salaries at prior year level.”

The motion to remove strike-out was seconded and passed.

The vote to re-affirm Resolution 98-17 as amended passed.

The motion to reaffirm the following high priority resolutions from previous years passed:    99-1, 99-6, 99-7, 99-10, 99-11, 98-18, 98-26

The motion to reaffirm the following medium priority resolutions from previous years passed:  99-2, 99-5, 99-8, 98-2
                           
The motion to reaffirm the following low priority resolutions from previous years passed:  99-3, 98-22

Late Resolutions Submitted from Board of Directors
Resolution 2000-29:  Funding for Regional Mental Health Centers
The seconded motion to adopt Resolution 2000-29 at High Priority passed.

Resolution 2000-30:  County Offices of Public Assistance; Costs
The seconded motion to adopt Resolution 2000-30 at High Priority passed.

Resolution 2000-31:  Funding Summer Youth Employment Programs
The seconded motion to adopt Resolution 2000-31 at High Priority passed.

Resolution 2000-32:  Limitation on County Road and Bridge Depreciation Reserve Funds
The seconded motion to adopt Resolution 2000-32 at High Priority passed.

Resolution 2000-33:  Mobile Home Recycling
Bill Kennedy, Yellowstone County

“The Health and Human Services Committee met yesterday and presents the motion to move from Low to Medium priority”

The seconded motion to move to medium priority carried.

The seconded motion to adopt Resolution 2000-33 passed.

The motion to suspend the rules to introduce a late resolution was seconded and passed with the required 2/3 majority.

Resolution 2000-34: Removal / Restoration of Damaged Forest Resources
Alan Thompson, Ravalli County
  “We would like to see re-forestation and restoration.  This would have tremendous economic impact not only in Ravalli County but those counties which were adjacent to us. Counties that have sawmills (Lincoln, Sanders, etc.) have said they would like to be able to harvest some of this.  We would like to present this resolution to the State Land Board.  We have approximately 50 million board feet of damaged timber on our State Lands.  We would also like to hand carry it to the Secretary of Agriculture and to the Secretary of Interior.

The impetus for this was the second week of the fire.  Friends within the Bitterroot filed a suit in District Court that said, “When the fires are over, we want EISs, etc. etc. taken care of before any salvage logging takes place.”  Quite frankly, that takes a couple of years; the timber rots and there is no way to do anything with it.  We have suffered about $8 Million in economic problems in Ravalli County.  I think it would be an economic benefit to a lot of counties.”

Mary Sexton, Teton County
“This should address State forests, too.  I move to amend to add State forests so that it reads national forests and state forests as well.”  

The motion to amend to add Montana State forests and Montana State government was seconded and passed

A motion to adopt amended Resolution 2000-34 with a high priority was seconded and carried.

2002 Annual Conference
Conference delegates voted to hold the 2002 Annual Conference in Big Sky, hosted by Madison and Gallatin Counties.

Election of Officers
A  unanimous  ballot  was  cast  to  elect  Gary Fjelstad,  Rosebud County as MACo President and Dean Harmon, Roosevelt County as First Vice President.  

Victor Miller, Blaine County was elected Second Vice President.

Outgoing President Harold Blattie announced that Urban Representative Mike Murray of Lewis and Clark County was elected by Urban County members and that Allan Underdal will enter his second year as Fiscal Officer.

The call for further business had no response.  The meeting was adjourned.

Monday, September 25, 2000
Joint Opening Session – Workers Compensation Insurance Pool; Property & Casualty Insurance Pool

JPA Chair Harold Blattie opened the Joint Session.  Gordon Morris conducted the roll call and noted a quorum was present for each insurance pool.  
JPA Chair Blattie introduced the JPA Board of Trustees:
Gary Fjelstad, Harold Blattie, Janet Kelly, Allan Underdal, Dean Harmon, Howard Gipe, Gordon Morris

JPIA Chair Vern Petersen introduced the present JPIA Trustees: Vern Petersen, Chairman, Mike Murray, Gary Fjelstad, John Prinkki, Don McDowell, Harold Blattie, Gordon Morris

Trustee Nominations
“The JPA Work. Comp. side is straightforward,  but it’s a little more complicated on the JPIA side.   In the Work. Comp. program, I refer to our By Laws, Article III:

Gordon Morris
The Board shall be comprised of seven persons who are representatives of members in the Trust and the Montana Association of Counties.  The Board shall be the Executive Committee members of the Montana Association of Counties as elected and designated at the annual meeting of the Montana Association of Counties and the Executive Director of the Montana Association of Counties designated and employed by the Board shall be a trustee.
It goes on to say in Subsection iii”

In the case where an elected member of the Executive Committee is from a county that is not a member of the Trust, said position will be filled by nominations from the floor at the annual meeting, to be voted upon by the members present…

So, for Work. Comp. you do nothing until after the election of the Executive Committee. For Urban Counties rep., the only Urban County that is not a member of the JPA program is Missoula.  An Urban Rep. from Missoula would not be eligible and on Wednesday you would nominate from the floor to fill that vacancy.  In the election of the second VP, you have two candidates for second vice president.  One is not eligible to serve as a JPIA trustee.  Commissioner Howard Gipe is from Flathead County, which is not a member of our insurance authority.  Commissioner Vic Miller is.  So, if Howard wins, the Fiscal Officer would automatically move into that position.  If Victor is elected, then he will serve as a Trustee.  

A few years ago we had a similar provision with JPIA, the property-casualty program.  In 1997 we amended it and it says:

The Board shall consist of the President, the First Vice President and the Executive Director of the Montana Association of Counties.  The remaining four members shall be elected by the members at the MACo/JPIA Annual meeting for a term of three years each… If the President or the First Vice President is from a non-member county, the trustee position shall immediately be filled by a member of the MACo Executive Committee Officers, in the following order:  the Second Vice President, the Fiscal Officer, the Past President, the Urban Representative.  
 
We don’t have to do any nominating today.  On Wednesday we will be taking nominations because we have two positions that have to be elected for at-large membership.  Current Trustee John Prinkki is ending a three-year term begun in 1997 and Commissioner Don McDowell, is serving out the one year left on that position.  Don’s position has also expired in terms of its three-year term.  Both positions will be subject to nominations from the floor, either of whom could be re-nominated and other nominations could be made on Wednesday.  

I have copies of both the By Laws of the JPIA program and the JPA program.  If you would like a copy, I would be happy to hand one over to you.”  

Workers Compensation Report – Ray Barnicoat
“The Work. Comp.  program continues  to have a very high success rate. This year in February we retired the bonds at mid-point. We were supposed to go an additional ten years, but then came the first call date and they were gone.

In April, the actuarial report recommended a reduction of 7% off of your quarterly premium--a great reduction. This is on top of what you have for experience modified, adjusted after that.  Very significant!

My opinion is that we are at the point where rates are either going to level off or we are going to see slight increases.  I’ve some reasons to think this way.  It’s easier to talk about it now than further down the road.

First of all, we are seeing the start of trends nationally.  I’m in the process of preparing our Workers’ Comp. excess insurance.  That has consistently gone down for us over the past 5, 6, 7 years.  This year it went up $9,600.  In the private sector market, the rate increased.  Others were telling me this morning about businessmen in their communities experiencing significant increases.  

During this past interim there has been a Workers’ Compensation study committee.  They have seven bills to bring to this next legislative session.  Just about all of those bills are for inflation.  Maybe that’s not a bad deal because in the early ‘90’s there were a number of reforms that did come on the backs of workers and now it’s time to adjust some of that.  But how much money can Montana employers cough up to make Work. Comp. a better system for the injured worker?  That falls right through to our programs and the State government as well.  

In addition to that, there is a Work. Comp. Coalition which has a dozen bills they call, “The Dirty Dozen”.  Every one of those bills are inflationary bills for Work. Comp..  Some may get through; some may be not and so we negotiate before we get to the hearings.  

Twice this past year there have been decisions through the Montana State Supreme Court which have the potential for conditional exposure and thus an increase in our Work. Comp. system.  
As a risk manager we can enjoy the successes and really appreciate the savings we had over time, but there is a time for change.  That time is coming on us now and it’s easier to talk about it here than have to explain why things happened later.

What can we do to help ourselves?  I think it’s very basic and I’ve got to ask for your help on this.  Please, every one of you just really work on reducing frequency of workplace injuries.  Then the costs will take care of themselves.  If we don’t have the claims, we won’t have the costs.  We know we are not going to get rid of all the claims but our frequency sits too high to be overly comfortable.  The way that we can get there is savings X 3:  savings, savings, savings.  Work on the people through education and motivation.  Your safety committees have been lax.  Let’s get some training done to make sure that we are meeting some of the requirements in the Safety Culture Act.  You’ve been good team players, participating in training.  Our Boards of Trustees is interested in seeing that people enroll in those training sessions and participate.  Those are the things that create the teamwork and make the program successful.

As we are going into the Legislative Session, let’s not forget the Work. Comp. bills either.  We are going to need folks like you there as business owners, as commissioners, to testify on those.  

I ask Emelia McEwen to stand. She has worked with a number of you over the past years.  It’s very common to find her in a nursing home assisting people with lifting techniques, body mechanics, and analyzing lifting equipment.  And it’s very common to find her in a courthouse environment doing ergonomic assessments and training sessions, assisting people to avoid repetitive motion injuries to hand and shoulder.”  

Harold Blattie
“I would like to introduce Larry Zanto who handles our claims through Willis.  I also introduce Jack Holstrom, who is the personnel services administrator for JPIA.  The ratings on the workshops show that everybody just loves what he does for us.  I thank them.”

Gordon Morris
“In your packet are the Work. Comp. report and the JPIA report.  We also provided the latest financial information for this period ending June 30.  I think it’s significant to note the $13 Million in Work. Comp. in investments.  That takes into account that we called the bonds in February--some $6.78 Million worth.  That’s $13 Million that’s accruing interest in the pool for the benefit of the members.

As of August, the JPIA program has invested in excess of $5 Million.  If you go back even three years ago, we weren’t over a million dollars.  With the program changes in the overall structure of the program, I think you can really see the growth as a result of that.

This is going to come to you as a surprise, but in thinking of how we have done this now for fourteen years, it might be time to change our By Laws.  Our By Laws for both programs require that we have this meeting at the annual MACo convention.  That’s why we are meeting this afternoon and why we will meet again on Wednesday to conclude our general business session after the election of MACo officers.  Is it time to consider amending the By Laws to have a separate insurance meeting, totally outside of the context of MACo’s annual convention, not at the same time, but at a different specified time?  I know that you find it very confusing.  We interrupt the MACo meeting to bring you the JPA / JPIA program; and when we are done with that, we go back to MACo.  Should we consider having meetings of the membership at a time specified in the By Laws, removed from the MACo annual convention?”  

Ted Coffman, Madison County
“This is a good time because this is when we are all together.   I think we have a good Board,  but I’m interested in what goes on  and this is a good time to get the information out.”

Dean Harmon, Roosevelt County
 “I concur with  what Ted says.   Not all counties  are members,  so I think having it here at this time would encourage them to participate, even as listeners.  Hopefully they will become a member of the organization.  The other way would  isolate and have less knowledge for those non-member counties.”

 Allan Underdal, Toole County
“I don’t think  we want to  change.   Not every time is  a good time to have us traveling.”    

Glenna Obie, Jefferson County
“Would it be more helpful to have the meeting all on Wednesday morning or all at one time, instead of having this insertion in the middle of this day and then another insertion in the middle of that day.  Have it all together and have an opportunity to ask a few more questions and talk a little bit more about the program, the rates, problems some of us have had.  When Greg and the folks come to see us, we frequently have a lot of questions and he ends up saying, “Well, that’s decided by the Board of Directors.”  We could have time to ask the Board of Directors why they made those decisions.”

Gordon Morris
“Thank you.  I want to thank every body for allowing me this digression.  It’s good feedback not only for myself, but also for the Trustees.  For example, we could eliminate the opening session on Monday.  We could combine everything into an opening and closing session on Wednesday morning, be done with MACo on Tuesday evening and just continue the next morning with the insurance programs.  The Convention planning committee could take a look at it.”

Janet Kelly, Custer County
“It’s a plus to consider a different time frame.  When it’s the last thing on the agenda, we have lost people, depending on the weather.  Let’s not change from the annual meeting, but rather where it’s slotted on the schedule.”

Vern Petersen, Fergus County
“When you  need nominations  for the  Trustees,  now you  know that  on Monday and it gives you two days to line up somebody that you think might be good in that position.  It’s an extremely important position.  So to come in and have a half-hour meeting and nominate somebody from the floor that you haven’t even talked to would be a mistake.  I think that’s something we need to consider.”

Janet Kelly
“Perhaps we could consider a way for information to come out during fall district meetings, so possible candidates could be identified a little bit earlier.  That may eliminate the problem of trying to do it all in one executive meeting.”

Gordon Morris
“I want to thank you all.  This has been interesting and I like the feedback.  If you have any other comments or if you have any questions about the Work. Comp. brochure that is in the packets I would be glad to visit with you.  Everything that we see in terms of the finance of both the JPIA and the JPA programs speaks well of the programs.  Doing it this way at least we have opportunity for non-members to get the benefit of listening to a conversation and maybe to consider the programs in the future.”

Glenna Obie
“I want to ask about the officer situation, because people find that very confusing.  Could we revise the By Laws so that any officer elected, who is a member of whichever pool, automatically becomes a member of that board, but we still elect people from the body as a whole?  The number on the board might fluctuate from year to year depending on who the officers are.”

Gordon Morris
“Once, the JPIA was identical to JPA.  The Executive Committee, as long as they’re from a member county, was automatically trustees.  We went to this because a few of years ago, with seventeen counties in the program, the odds were never in your favor that the full Executive membership was eligible.  As a result we changed the By Laws.  If you have four members elected at large and two members that come from the Executive Committee, it just goes down through the chairs.  So it provides stability.  If Howard is elected, then we have to drop down to the Fiscal Officer, who is eligible.  We have the four that were elected.  It happens that two of the three-year terms expire this year.  So we are really electing only two.  My point is that they were exactly the same ten years ago.  In the Property-Casualty program we have four officers elected at large with two Executive Committee members.  For the Work. Comp. program, six of them are the Executive Committee.”

Property & Casualty Pool Report – Greg Jackson
“I will report  on the  Property / Liability  Pool at the  Wednesday meeting. Then  we’ll have the  opportunity to discuss  and review some coverage changes.  Second, the series of  policy-holder seminars  start next week  for 2 ½ weeks in 9 locations throughout the state.  If you haven’t sent in your registration forms yet, please do so.  There are a couple of locations where we have minimal numbers.  We will have four evening sessions that are designed specifically for your appointed board members and also for special district board members.  This is an opportunity for you as a policy-holder to come in.  We will try to get the information out to everybody.  There is no fee associated with the seminars.  They are open to non-member also.  A list of the locations is available.” 

Wednesday, September 27, 2000 – Havre, MT
15th Annual Conference MACo Joint Powers Authority Workers’ Compensation Trust

Roll Call  
JPA Secretary Gordon Morris called the roll.  A quorum was present.

President Harold Blattie called the Annual Meeting of Joint Powers Authority for the Workers’ Compensation Pool to order.  

“The By Laws indicate that the MACo Executive Board shall be the Trustees for the Work. Comp. pool as long as the individual counties are member counties.  The situation is that all of the Executive Board members do belong to the Joint Powers Authority. 

Election of Officers
A seconded motion to elect the current MACo officers to the Joint Powers Authority carried:

  • President Gary Fjelstad
  • First Vice President Dean Harmon
  • Second Vice President Victor Miller
  • Fiscal Officer Allan Underdal
  • Urban Representative Mike Murray
  • Past President L. Harold Blattie
  • MACo Executive Director Gordon Morris

Calls for further business went unanswered and the meeting was adjourned.

14th Annual Conference
Conference MACo Joint Powers Insurance Authority Property & Casualty Trust
Wednesday, September 27, 2000

Chair Vern Petersen called the meeting to order.

Annual Report – Greg Jackson, JPIA Marketing Director
“I want to  update  the membership  on the  JPIA program  and marketing efforts for the year.  We now offer excess liability coverage or additional limits  on federal and out-of-state claims.   Right now we have 21 that purchased that coverage and we hope to have all the counties with those additional limits in the next year.  
    
We also added a new property re-insurance company, Regis.  As a result of seminars we had a couple of weeks ago, they are offering other property coverage too, and it looks like we have a good commitment with them over the next two or three years.  
Also, the Trustees may consider options for caps for the re-insurance on the liability side.  Currently we have Signet Star providing that coverage.        
I am pleased to announce that we have two new members in the program.  We welcome Judith Basin County and Custer County effective July 1.  Also, we have preliminary commitment from Sheridan County to come into the program effective October 1.  So, I’d like to welcome those three new members.  
    
We have 77 Districts in the program and their overall loss ratio is currently about 30%, so they have been good members.  It looks as if we are adding close to 15 districts a year.  
    
The financial status of the program has improved tremendously since we restructured the program in ’96.  We started by funding the self-funding part at about $2.7 Million.  That dropped to $2.5 Million and now we are down to $2.4 Million.  If we continue with the positive claims trend, then we can drop that even further.  This is a Trustee option to look at enhancing the program.  So, the financial aspect of the program is on a very, very positive trend.”

Election of Trustees - Vern Petersen
Two trustee positions  were expiring.   Nominations from the floor were accepted for each position.  Two people were elected to three-year terms (2000 - 2003): John Prinkki, Carbon County, Carol Brooker, Sanders County
               
Don McDowell
“I thank you for that flip of the coin last year.  Carol will enjoy serving.  It is interesting and she is going to be working with hard-working people who are trying to make this work for our counties.  It has a bright future.”
                               
Harold Blattie
“I extend my thanks to the other Trustees of the JPIA Pool.  After being elected as Second Vice President three years ago, I suddenly found out I was in an insurance company.  Quite honestly I hadn’t realized that during the course of my crusade for VP.  It really is a challenge to become the insurer rather than the insured.  Greg has done a wonderful job of marketing and to those counties who are not members of the Pool, I urge you and encourage you to consider joining.  We are pooling our overall risks between all member counties to share and share alike.  Hence, the coverage that you get and the services that are provided simply can’t be equaled, especially in the area of personnel with Jack Holstrom.  I don’t know if you could be fair about how much money he saved us.”

The meeting was adjourned.

Monday, September 25, 2009
Balance of State Job Training Consortium – Annual Conference

Chair, Jim Hunt, Park County
“Welcome and  thank you for letting me  be here this afternoon.   It is time for the Balance of State  Job Training Consortium  annual meeting.   This time is provided during the MACo Annual Conference.  Montana has two service delivery areas--CEP, the Concentrated Employment Program, with its 10 counties and the Balance of State with the remainder of 46 counties.  We are charged with distributing dollars for services in Montana for the Federal job training program.

First I want to introduce, the CEP Council of Commissioners:

  • Dave Beatty, Anaconda Deer Lodge County
  • Charles Lucas, Ringling--Meagher County
  • Tim Clark, Butte Silver Bow County
  • Mike Murray, Helena--Lewis & Clark County
  • Tom Hatch, Helmsville--Powell County       
  • Frank Nelson, Virginia City--Madison County
  • Jim Hohn, Townsend--Broadwater County
  • Sam Samson, Boulder--Jefferson County
  • Mike Kahoe, Philipsburg--Granite County       
  • Donna Sevalstad, Dillon--Beaverhead County

The BOS Council of Commissioners are:

  • Kathie Bailey, Lewistown, District 6       
  • David Reinhart, Glasgow, District 1
  • Carol Brooker, Thompson Falls, District 10       
  • Joan Stahl, Forsyth, District 3
  • Adam Dahlman, Choteau, District 5      
  • Judy Stang, Superior, District 11
  • Connie Eissinger, Brockway, District 2        
  • Jim Hunt, Livingston, District 9
  • Bill Kennedy, Billings, District 7      
  • Gordon Morris, MACo
  • Victor Miller, Chinook, District 4

Next are Sue Mohr, director for Montana Job Training Partnership and Frank Kankleborg, the program specialist.
    
The purpose of this meeting is to let you know what is happening statewide and nationally on the job training program. 
           
Executive Director, Sue Mohr, MJTP, Inc.    
“It’s good to  be here at the  Montana Association of Counties meeting.   You can tell that Jim is a real leader  because he can tell  people like Judy Stang  where she lives.  
   
Whether she agrees with him or not doesn’t matter. I am going to take a whirlwind tour of the Workforce Investment Act passed in 1998.  If you’re not exactly bowled over by the changes that have been occurring in this business in Montana, it’s because you shouldn’t be.  We are moving at a glacial pace because this Act requires huge changes in our system and integration of programs at both the state and local levels that are turning into painful processes for all of us.  
       
Each of Montana’s two areas appoints a Workforce Investment Board, so there’s a Balance of State Workforce Investment Board and a CEP Workforce Investment Board.  Currently funds flow to each area and they have the authority over what is called “one stop system”, which must be customer-friendly and easy to get into.  
       
Many times in your communities people wander in for services and they only hear about what is offered at that particular office.  Now all those programs are to be integrated together, so that people can walk into any of those offices and get help to know what’s going on everywhere.  Everyone has access to “core services” just by walking in the door; and for those who can’t get employed, we have training dollars.  Previously our system was designed for people who had problems, who were poor, or who couldn’t find work because industry had shut down.  Now under the one-stop vision, it’s open to all adults, with services which result in self-sufficiency.  The summer youth funds have been dedicated to a year-round program, thus eliminating the big summer program that many of you were familiar with, where you had kids going to work in schools and in your parks systems, etc.  

Both areas were required under the Federal law, as a condition of receiving funds this year, to designate two one-stops in each of their areas.  The CEP designated the Butte Job Service Office and the Balance of State designated the Lewistown Workforce Center, which has some co-located offices in it.  
       
After we designated those two one-stop centers we really didn’t have the plan to integrate the rest of the State.  So 25 people volunteered to go on a one stop tour to places all over the United States to look at truly integrated, effective, well-run one-stop centers which were located in areas similar to Montana.  They were rural and they had many of the same kinds of issues we have here politically.  We sent folks to places like Alaska, Northern Minnesota, rural Nevada, northern California and Pennsylvania.  They came back and spent two days putting together the “One Stop Tour Group Proposal”.  We will be rolling this out next week at our annual leadership conference in Missoula.  We greatly appreciate Connie Eissinger who will be on the road in meetings like this until the conference in Missoula.
       
The proposal itself has lots of elements to it.  These are the basics:
Requires at least three programs or agencies which are co-located.  The vision is to eventually achieve full integration of all the partners.  The idea is similar to Walmart.  When someone walks in, a guide can very quickly assess what the person needs and direct the person where to go.

Shared services and information
Build in continuous improvement--whatever gets developed by communities needs to have ways to improve at all times.
    
This brings us to the Community Workforce Planning Conference in Billings, November 15 and 16.  This is a huge project that we have been putting together with the State for the last few months.  This is our hand up to the communities.  We have invited all the local management teams who are operating in some 24 communities around Montana to come in to this conference.  Each of those teams has a local facilitator that to help them develop a business plan for their community.  We already spent a day training those facilitators.  They will also come to Billings and everyone will go out for a day and half to develop a business plan, based on the tour group proposal, which they can then roll out in each of their communities.  It’s a big project.  Please urge members of your committee to attend this conference.  If you can attend it, all the better.
       
County commissioners select and appoint Workforce Investment Board members.  Our Workforce Investment Boards are 35 to 40 members, a majority from the private sector.  Every BOS district has a private sector rep. and every county in the CEP has a private sector rep.  That means you need to be always on the look out for people who you think would be good to serve on the Boards.  We have an open enrollment process.  You contact us anytime to send in resumes and names of people you think would be good.  We also have representatives from education, labor, community based organizations, rehab. organizations, economic development, job services.  If you see people in your communities who you think would be good, please encourage them to serve on the Board.  People who do serve will tell you that it is very good, very productive work.  The Boards receive money and figure out how to distribute it throughout the State.  
       
What you can do is to spread the word, visit offices in your communities, see if they are doing what we just described to you.  Be there and be interested--that’s the most important role you can serve.
       
I want to thank MACo for the incredible support they have provided to our system, to my organization, the Montana Job Training Partnership.  For years, I have come to you and talked about Federal funding of workforce programs and about how difficult it is to get support in Congress.  Finally about a year ago, at the National Association of Counties level, we were able to hire an advocacy firm in Washington DC.  We tied in our work with them, so they are now advocating for funds both through the National Association of Counties and through USAWorks.  The annual fee could not be paid out of Federal funds, so through MACo’s generosity we are covering that.  We want to thank you for that support.  We think this will be a huge help in obtaining funds for our system, particularly as we move forward under a new administration.  I want to personally thank the members of this organization and the Board of Directors, Gordon, Jane and all our partners here.  
       
I am so excited to be able to do this.  A couple weeks ago I learned that this was Jim Hunt’s last meeting.  He has provided such great leadership for our Balance of State commissioners over the last 12 years.  When Jim was a newly elected county commissioner, those District 9 commissioners were looking around and thinking, “Who’s new?”  So they elected Jim.  He is one of those commissioners who rolls up his sleeves, gets right into the action.  Whenever we have needed support from Commissioners, he was always there.  Throughout the last ten years or so, we have been very, very lucky in our system to have the county commissioners like Don Valiton, Don McClain, Bud Miller, Ann Mary Dussault, Jane Jelinski, Sherm Doucette, Blake Wordell, etc.  Our system would not be the kind of local delivery system that you have, which is responsive to what you and what your people need, if your commissioners and your representatives hadn’t come forward and done what they needed to do.  Jim is right out of that mold.
       
It didn’t take long for the Balance of State commissioners to make him the head, because they could see that he had that very low key, quiet leadership style that served the needs.  When he needed to meet with the Governor or when he needed to meet with Department staff in State government to get his message across, he was always very effective.  He is very even-handed and very clear in advocating for local areas and not in any other political sense.  It’s just been a great tenure for Jim, and so I’m very happy to give him this.  It reads:

“In grateful appreciation for twelve years of service to the Balance of State Council of Commissioners and dedicated service to the customers of Montana’s workforce development system.”

We did this because every time Hunt goes to one of those national conferences, he always comes back with a bunch of cups.  So now he has a cupboard.”

Jim Hunt, Outgoing BOS Chair    
“I am going to miss being here at MACo and I am going to miss being chair of the Commissioners for the Balance of State.   All of us, after we have been involved in any of this, have a sense of ownership.   It’s awfully hard to let it go.   I’ve dealt with a lot of good commissioners throughout my tenure in both the Balance of State and in MACo.  I’ve always made it a point that I wanted to be here because of our associations at so many of the different meetings that we all have to attend.  I attend many different meetings with a lot of different commissioners throughout the State of Montana who are dedicated.  I sure appreciate it and I know the people of our counties also appreciate it.  I am going to miss this very much.  It was a hard decision for me not to run this year, but my wife and I have wanted to do some traveling.  I sure didn’t feel comfortable taking all the time out that we wanted, so I didn’t run this time.  I do thank you for your support and I will always support MACo and the commissioners in the State of Montana.  This is my home. I want to thank my fellow commissioners in Park County and Gallatin County who I represent on the Balance of State Council.  They have always been supportive.  Thank you.”

The meeting was adjourned.

Remarks of Javier Gonzales - Commissioner, Santa Fe County, New Mexico, NACo President-Elect
“Thank you for the kind introduction.  It is great to be here with you today.  This is my first trip to Montana.  I’ve heard a great deal about Montana, and I imagined big, beautiful mountains, blue skies, green pastures and a vast frontier.  Since I’ve arrived I’ve had a little time to drive through the State and I have not been disappointed.  It is everything I expected and more.  I am in awe of the beauty and magnificence.  It reminds me of the northern area of my State, New Mexico.
Last week all the weather forecasters were watching Montana closely for a snowstorm.  That snowstorm was predicted to find its way to New Mexico.  It never did.  I would, however, like to extend an invitation to all of you to find your way to visit us in New Mexico where the vast lands that compliment desert and mountain areas create the drama of our terrain in the “Land of Enchantment”.

We do have several things in common between our states: Your state animal is the grizzly bear; ours is the brown bear.

Your state fish is the cutthroat trout; ours is the rainbow trout.

The pine tree is common to both our states.

Your state tree, the ponderosa pine, exhibits magnificent height and strength of stature.  New Mexico’s pine tree is small, prickly, with crooked limbs and is known as the pinon tree.  Our commonalities create a bond between New Mexico and Montana.

 My message to you today is to build on those commonalities, so I propose a mathematical formula:  National Association of Counties to the fourth degree.  The formula represents National Association of Counties Collectively and Cohesively Creating Collaborations.  One of the basic principals of mathematics is based on the premise that “all mathematical problems of a given value produce an end result.”  Together, counties, by this formula, can produce end results.
    
The problems we face as county officials are unique to our individual selves: our districts, our constituents, and indeed, our resources.  However, the problems we face as counties are unique to us all.

One of the most recent problems of high visibility that we have shared is apparent by the blackening of over 7million acres of lands by ravaging fires.  Seven million acres is equal to the size of New Jersey!  Since the last catastrophic fire season in 1994, NACo has been demanding action from the federal government about forest conditions.  NACo’s Public Lands platform and policy resolutions could not have been clearer on the subject.  That policy calls for a cohesive strategy to reduce the volatile high-risk forest fuels.  NACo sent a letter to President Clinton on September 5 pointing out these facts and demanding that a strategy be developed to prevent this devastation in the future.  President Clinton last week announced an ambitious new firefighting strategy.  The plan would provide $1.6 Billion in new money beyond the existing $1.2 Billion firefighting budget.  Of the new money, $900 Million would replenish funds depleted by the high cost of fighting this summer’s fires, leaving $700 Million for prevention.  The money spent on prevention would provide for thinning overgrown forests and more controlled burns--actions we have called for all along.  This is not enough; we must do more.
    
Also, as a result of the letter, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt will attend the Western Interstate Region Board of Directors meeting on September 28 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  Babbitt will be there to hear the concerns of county officials and discuss the development of that strategy.  It should be a very interesting meeting, and I will be there to participate and put into action this mathematical formula--NACo to the 4th degree--that would encourage Secretary Babbitt to gain Washington’s support in preparing for future devastations to our lands from fires--fires, that as we have learned, take on a life of their own.
    
By putting the mathematical formula into action, we would be able to collectively and cohesively collaborate in assisting President Jane Hague in pursuing the initiatives she has identified as priorities:
    
Priority #1:  the delivery of services by effective technology
    
Priority #2:  focusing on “smart growth”, the concept that is designed to address a problem unique to  most counties, if not all--“sprawl”
    
To focus on the effective technology initiative there will be a technology summit next year in King County, Washington, on February 1--3.  The summit will feature presentations by technology experts, information about new innovation and discussions by county officials of critical technology issues.  Part of the summit will be held on the Microsoft campus, and it promises to be an exciting event.
    
The smart growth initiative will focus on how counties are dealing with growth and what is working.  It will explore the various processes involved in addressing growth issues and identifying the end result of models that are effective.  The initiative will be pursued through the Joint Center for Sustainable Communities, which NACo runs with the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
    
During my term as President, I will continue to pursue the technology and smart growth initiatives.  For these, I’m focusing my collaboration with Ms. Hague on two issues:  digital divide and literacy.  
    
On the issue of literacy the statistics are mind boggling: 20% of American adults are functionally illiterate; another 34% have only marginal skills; 50% of American adults cannot read at eighth-grade level; 13% of all 17 year olds and 44% of minority youth are functionally illiterate.  The estimated cost of illiteracy to taxpayers and businesses is $20 Billion per year.  This, combined with the statistic that only 27% of newly created jobs are low skill, creates a large gap.  Literacy is necessary to produce the sustainability of our economy and indeed our nation.  My primary focus will be rural counties.  I want to help rural counties raise economic standards and improve the delivery of services.  Despite our booming economy, there are counties that have been left behind; they should not be forgotten.  My dream is to create a special institute on rural governance that would provide policy research, leadership training and technical assistance to rural officials.  The goal is to help rural officials become stronger leaders.  I will work hard to see that it happens.  Helping rural counties is a priority with NACo and establishing the Rural Action Caucus is a good beginning.  Collectively and cohesively collaborating in creating the governance institute is a perfect way to continue that effort.
    
The digital divide issue is another collective and cohesive collaboration with Ms. Hague.  As social scientists examine the demographic patterns of Internet access and usage, we are learning more about digital divide being created because of accessibility issues.  While Clinton’s “Call to Action for American Education” provides a universal access guarantee for the next generations, accessibility to the Internet is providing us with key demographic variables like income and education.  Although almost 70% of the schools in this country have at least one computer connected to the Internet, less than 15% of classrooms have Internet access.  There exists inequities, and we must find an end result.  
    
Neither Jane nor I can accomplish these goals without your help, without helping each other.  We must put into action the mathematical formula (NACo 4th degree) to create the end product for Internet access and literacy.  That would be the result of collective cohesive collaborations.
    
The NACo cooperative purchasing program is a perfect example of how this formula has worked.  Together, counties can save time and money.  Recently, NACo’s Financial Services Center announced a new program that will save counties and cities as much as $50 Million on technology purchases.  It allows local governments to buy computers and other high-tech equipment directly from such leaders in the computer industry as IBM, DELL, Gateway, Micron, Comark and Software Spectrum.  The cooperative alliance saves counties money because it pools the purchasing power of local governments and achieves bulk volume discounts.  This new program is the second phase of the alliance’s efforts.  It already offers an office supply program through Office Depot that saved local governments $35 Million in 1999.
    
In addition, NACO has a number of awards programs, like the Achievement Awards and the Acts of Caring.  These programs provide recognition to counties and county officials for their hard work.  They also serve another purpose as a valuable resource of successful, effective programs.  NACo’s Research Division keeps a database of successful county programs.  You can save staff time and resources by finding out how another county solved a similar problem simply by contacting the Research Division.
    
As you know, NACo is a lobbying organization.  But it is much, much more.  It is an organization that brings together counties and county officials to help improve our great nation.  More than in Washington DC, NACo lives in the counties.  If your county is a member, thank you.  I encourage you to become active in the association.  If your county is not a member, I encourage you to join.  Our voice in Washington and our ability to help counties are both stronger because of your support.  Our potential to produce end results that collectively and cohesively create collaborations will not only strengthen but will enhance our capabilities as elected officials and administrators.  This afternoon please join us in a reception from 4:00 to 6:00 to discover how NACo can benefit your counties.