Financial issues are ongoing, and are likely to remain so in the foreseeable future. Is the county taking the right approach to setting its budget and levy each year?
The 2011 residential survey responses indicate: 78 percent agreed they get good value for property taxes paid, 90 percent approve of the job done by the county board and 78 percent oppose or strongly oppose higher property taxes to maintain county services. I equate those responses as a high approval rating for the course the county board has taken in setting the budget and levy. The county does long-range budget planning which allows us to plan for changes in the economy and revenues from the state and federal governments. This planning has kept us from needing to make large swings in setting our levies from one year to the next. Our citizens are living with tight budgets and so is the county board. The preliminary levy set by the county board in September was a negative two-tenths of a percent. It is not a great reduction, but it was the board's way of recognizing the financial constraints our citizens are facing.
The number of senior citizens living in Dakota County is among the fastest growing in the area. What should be Dakota County's role, if any, in meeting possible needs of that age group?
The baby boomers are turning grey and by 2030 will out-number the children in our schools. For the last five years the county has been working on various initiatives to address the needs of this new demographic. The goal of Dakota Communities for a Lifetime initiative is to create a network of vital, accessible communities that address the needs and utilizes the assets of an aging population. Some of those needs include but are not limited to: provide needed transportation options to help keep older adults and caregivers in home and community settings; provide adequate housing for the lifecycle needs of our residents; improve the ability of residents to effectively plan for their financial futures and provide meaningful opportunities for older adults to contribute to their communities.
Transportation -- how people get around the county and through it -- is a challenge. As the roads continue to get more congested, how should Dakota County address the need? Are we doing it right already?
Dakota County is not an island, but part of a major metropolitan region. Many of our residents don't work within the county and many of our businesses rely on the efficient transport of their supplies and goods. It gets to a point when it isn't possible to continue to widen our most congested roads. Traffic into and out of the two downtowns has to cross the two largest rivers in our state requiring bridges to keep the traffic flowing. Widening bridges to keep traffic flowing can be cost prohibitive and in some situations impossible logistically. The solution to that problem is to bring in transit. This is a regional issue which requires a regional response. Other major metropolitan areas across the country have transit systems that attract major employers. In order to compete with Denver, Portland and others we need a regional transit system. Dakota County is a major player in the region's economy and therefore recognized the need to join other large metro counties in developing our regions transit system. The Dakota County Regional Rail Authority is developing the Cedar Avenue Bus Rapid Transitway which is slated to open next year and is in the alternatives analysis phase for the Robert Street Corridor.