Cook County to Address Proposed Decrease in Federal Payments
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COOK COUNTY, MINNESOTA - June 26, 2019 (LSN) – The Thye-Blatnik Act of 1948 was created to provide compensation to Cook, Lake, and St. Louis Counties for public lands set aside for conservation. Counties receive 0.75% of the assessed value of the lands in payment. The value of the lands is reappraised every ten-years.
Payments received, beginning in 1989 were $421,000, $704,000 in 1999, and $2,025,000 in 2009. The increase in 2009 was significant and more than the county expected. As a result of the 2018 appraisal, the next ten years payments are proposed to be $1,273,500 annually. This represents a significant cut in federal revenues even though the proposed number is more in line with historical payments.
Representatives from Cook, Lake, and St. Louis Counties received the ten-year appraisal and proposed payments in a meeting with United States Forest Service (USFS) on June 13. USFS staff provided a deadline of August 1 to appeal the appraisal before it is finalized in November.
The three counties are working together to coordinate technical and political responses to this news. County staff met with a land value consultant to coordinate a technical response to the appraisal process and values on June 24.
The three counties are also working with federal representatives to explore alternatives to the proposed payment reduction. County commissioners and staff met with the Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky of USDA and Congressman Stauber’s Chief of Staff Koetzle on June 17 to review the proposed financial impact to counties and explore alternatives.
County staff and county commissioners are continuing to pursue solutions to this proposed change in federal payments while at the same time developing strategies to address the shortfall as the 2020 budget season kicks off.