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Joe Atkins Viewpoint: 1.9 percent budget proposal, feedback sought

Joe Atkins

The net impact of the proposed 2018 Dakota County budget would be an increase of 1.9 percent or less in the property tax levy, or roughly $8 per year on the average valued home in Dakota County. This is the smallest proposed increase of any metro county for 2018. The county's final budget still needs to be approved in December and, by law, can only go down, not up. Currently, a typical household in Dakota County pays $416 less in county property taxes than the metro average.

In other updates...

BALLOTS. For much of the state, this is an off-election year, but not in Dakota County. Nearly 225,000 of 257,000 registered voters will have an election held in their communities this year. A convenient way to get information about the upcoming election is through the Voter Information Portal at www.mnvotes.org.

BATTERED WOMEN GRANT. Dakota County's Electronic Crime Task Force competed for and earned a three-year, $450,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The grant will enhance efforts to gather evidence and assist victims of domestic and sexual violence, as well as other electronic crimes.

BIKING. Singletrack.com recently named Dakota County one the best mountain biking destinations in Minnesota, specifically at Lebanon Hills Park. Even if you aren't a mountain biker, recent figures show mountain bikers spend a significant amount of money that benefits local economies.

BUCKTHORN. National Public Lands Day a few weeks ago attracted 93 volunteers to Dakota County's Lebanon Hills Regional Park. Over 400 plants and hundreds of acorns were planted. Nearly three dozen high school students also helped haul buckthorn, and four additional buckthorn volunteer events are set in October, along with two other buckthorn events with the School of Environmental Studies.

TOWN MEETING FEEDBACK. I appreciate everyone who came and shared their thoughts with me at recent listening sessions in Rosemount, Eagan and Inver Grove. Below are some of the things I heard, both good and bad:

1) Lebanon Hills Park is great, and so are our county libraries.

2) The county should broadcast all county meetings and workshops, not just board meetings.

3) The Cliff/Dodd intersection needs a roundabout, not just a right turn lane.

4) The Braddock/Diffley intersection is precarious, especially for pedestrians, and the re-lining of the turn lanes did not help.

5) Questions about Galaxie Library remodel.

6) The county website is not as user-friendly as it could be.

7) Paving a connecting trail through Lebanon Hills, while cautiously supported by a few, faces strong opposition from others.

8) Using dynamite and/or condemnation to build bike trails is a bad idea.

9) An ongoing commitment to natural resource management is needed; there should be a County Parks and Natural Resources Commission.

10) Pollution — air, trash — in southern Inver Grove Heights is bad, but changes over the years at Flint Hills Refinery are appreciated.

11) Observation towers in Lebanon Hills and along the Mississippi River Trail should be installed to give visitors better views and a greater appreciation for the park and river.

12) The Highway 3 redesign at Rich Valley Boulevard set for 2018 could have a negative impact on some landowners along Highway 3.

13) McAndrews widening will negatively impact some adjacent landowners, with significant tree removal.

14) Speed enforcement ought to be enhanced, or speed limits lowered, at some locations.

15) Homelessness needs to be thoughtfully addressed.

16) Will the landfills in Rosemount, Inver Grove and Burnsville ever close?

17) What will landfills be used for if/when they do close?

18) Do not pave Akron Avenue in Inver Grove.

19) Transit options, especially to travel east-west in Dakota County, are too limited.

20) The County being debt-free is good, as is having the lowest property taxes per person of any county in the state.

SURVEY. Even if you were unable to attend my recent listening sessions, I would appreciate your input. Which of the 20 items above are most important to you? Do you agree or disagree? You can weigh in by emailing me at Joe.Atkins@co.dakota.mn.us, or by giving me a call at 651-438-4430. Feel free to add other items of importance to you.

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