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By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — The Dunn County Board of Supervisors has approved refinancing $14.2 million in general obligation bonds out of the $22 million in bonds issued in 2012 for building The Neighbors of Dunn County.
Earlier this year in February, when the stock market was still stable, the savings on refinancing would have been $700,000 to $750,000, said Keith Strey, the county’s chief financial officer, at the Dunn County Board’s May 20 meeting.
The plan was to have a competitive sale, but then the market dropped with the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
The plan then changed to a negotiated sale of the bonds, but the market conditions changed again, and the savings would have been significantly less at $400,000 to $450,000, Strey said.
After more conversations with the county’s bond counsel and municipal advisor, the plan is to now use a “parameters” resolution. Under a parameters resolution, the county board sets the parameters for the sale of the bonds, and when the market conditions are right, the chief financial officer and the county manager are authorized to proceed with the sale, he said.
“Timing can be everything” for the sale of bonds, and if the sale has to wait to be approved by the Dunn County Board, the delay could be a month or more until the next county board meeting, Strey said.
One of the parameters for the sale of a maximum amount of $14.2 million in general obligation bonds is that the savings must be five percent, with a minimum of $700,000 savings in interest, he said.
The advantage is that the county will be able to adjust and react when the right opportunity comes along. The county board would be authorizing the chief financial officer and county manager to move forward with the sale only if the parameters are met, Strey said.
The resolution is a typical, best practices resolution that is commonly used by governmental bodies for debt management across the country, he said.
If the market is slow to respond, then Dunn County will not move forward with the sale of the bonds, Strey said.
The Dunn County Board unanimously approved the resolution authorizing the issuance and sale of not to exceed $14.2 million in taxable general obligation health care center refunding bonds.
The Dunn County Board also approved a resolution authorizing the acceptance and expenditure of federal and state COVID-19 reimbursement funds.
The resolution will help county departments to be able to spend COVID-19 reimbursement funds to deal with unexpected expenditures, Strey said.
Under normal circumstances, when the county receives income not included in the budget, such as grant money, the county board approves separate budget adjustments to deal with the various amounts, he said.
Budget adjustments are required under state law, but this resolution will allow the departments to react and use COVID-19 funds if needed and will avoid flooding the committees and the Dunn County Board with budget adjustments, he said.
A final reconciliation will be presented to the county board at the end of the year, Strey said.
Michael Rogers, county board supervisor from Menomonie, said it is part of the county board’s job to approve budget adjustments and wondered what the downside was to coming to the county board with individual budget adjustments.
The budget adjustments would be in “dribs and drabs,” with $1,000 here and $10,000 there, with multiple budget adjustments “clogging the process,” Strey said.
A department might have to wait six to eight weeks to use any of the funds if the county board must approve each separate budget adjustment before the money can be spent, he said.
Mike Kneer, county board supervisor from Menomonie, wanted to know if the final budget adjustment is presented to the county board at the end of the year, would the board receive updates before then?
The departments can provide updates on the situation through the standing committees, Strey said, noting the health and human services department has already had two budget adjustments.
Gary Bjork, county board supervisor from Colfax, asked if any funds would be coming to help the county for the loss of sales tax related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Estimates of lost sales tax revenue from businesses being shut down or operating at diminished capacity to slow the spread of the coronavirus range from several hundred thousand dollars to as much as almost a quarter of a million dollars.
So far, there has been nothing allocated for lost revenue for the county, Strey said.
Prudent local government officials “should not hold their breath” waiting for relief money to replace lost revenue, said Miller, the county manager.
The Dunn County Board approved the resolution, with Rogers voting “no” on the motion.
The Dunn County Board also approved a resolution recommended by the Committee on Administration for adopting the Families First Coronavirus Response Act Provisions.
According to background information included with the resolution, “President Trump signed legislation on March 18, 2020, titled Families First Coronavirus Response Act for employees impacted by COVID-19. The Act temporarily modifies the requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act by creating the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, expands access to Unemployment Compensation Insurance Benefits by creating the Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act of 2020, and creates paid sick leave establishing the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. The Act took effect April 1, 2020, and will sunset on December 31, 2020. The attached policy was implemented for Dunn County employees. The Act specifically exempted Emergency Responders and Health Care Providers.”
At the May 20 meeting, the Dunn County Board also approved a budget adjustment of $330,000 for Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling to transfer money from the county’s general fund balance.
Revenue is down for solid waste and recycling and the costs are up. The value of recycled commodities are at historic lows, and the volume of waste to the transfer station, for which the county receives tipping fees, also is less. The remote collection sites, such as Colfax, Elk Mound and Boyceville, are expensive to operate as well, Miller said.
The solid waste and recycling division is projecting a shortfall of $330,000, and transferring money from the general fund will help the department finish the year, he said.
Hours also have been reduced at the eight remote sites so they will only be open on Saturdays instead of Wednesdays and Saturdays, Miller noted.
The closure of the remote sites on Wednesdays begins June 1.
The Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling Management Board has recommended approval of the budget transfer, and the planning, resources and development committee also has recommended approval along with the executive committee, he said.
Dunn County Board Supervisor Robert Bauer asked what the plans are for operating the Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling Division next year.
The issue of operating the solid waste and recycling program next year must be discussed with the towns, villages and the City of Menomonie, Miller said.
The past model of operating the transfer station and the remote sites is no longer sustainable, he said.
Discussions with the towns, villages and cities will be to determine if they want to continue the solid waste and recycling program as it is now or whether they want to “go it alone,” he said.
The Dunn County Board unanimously approved the budget transfer of $330,000 to the Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling Division.