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Gaylord is new county board chair

There are real challenges facing Dakota County and the county board of commissioners in 2009. But working together, they can meet those challenges.

That was the focal point of the comments made Tuesday by commissioner Katherine Gaylord after she was elected the 2009 board chair. Gaylord represents the second district -- South St. Paul, West St. Paul, Sunfish Lake and parts of Inver Grove Heights. She has been a commissioner since 2003.

"Hopefully, we will continue to be vigilant stewards of the residents' tax dollars," Gaylord said. "On Dec. 16, we set the budgets with the lowest per capita tax rate."

She said the county has been "holding the line" when using tax dollars. She also pointed to a 2008 residents' survey that showed high satisfaction with the county and its services.

"There was a 90 percent approval rate given to the county," she said.

The state is facing serious financial trouble, and it has already been felt in Dakota County. On Dec. 19, there was an immediate loss of $2.3 million to Dakota County. The county has to dip into its budget reserves to make up the revenue loss.

"That deficit (state) is likely to grow," Gaylord said. The county must be prepared to engage in tough talk about labor costs here, with the state, regarding heath and human services programs.

She was critical about both the state and federal governments implementing mandates for programs to local government units without providing adequate funding for them.

"I think 2009 is the time to repair the broken partnership with the state," she said.

In other organizational duties, the commissioners elected commissioner Thomas Egan of Eagan vice chair. The oaths of office were administered to newly-elected commissioner Liz Workman of Burnsville and re-elected commissioners Joseph Harris, who represents Farmington, and Willis Branning of Apple Valley.