Guest column: Schouweiler introduces herselfAfter redistricting, Dakota County Commissioner Nancy Schoulweiler now represents parts of Rosemount
By: Nancy Schouweiler, Rosemount Town Pages
I am Dakota County Commissioner Nancy Schouweiler and I represent the residents of Commissioner District 4. The recent redistricting changed Commissioner District 4, most dramatically with the addition of Rosemount Precincts 1,2,4,6 and 7. If you’re not familiar with the precinct within which you reside, District 4 includes all of Rosemount east of Shannon Parkway. This change in representation took effect on June 1, 2012. Those of you living east of Shannon Parkway can find my contact information on the Dakota County website www.dakotacounty.us.
I was elected to the County Board of Commissioners in January 1999 after serving 10 years on the ISD 199 Board of Education (Inver Grove Heights). The first woman to chair the county board (2004), I held the position again in 2008, and am the current 2012 board chair. I am a past president of the Association of Minnesota Counties and currently serve as a vice-chair of the National Association of Counties Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee.
I grew up in South St. Paul and am a lifelong resident of Dakota County. My husband and I have lived in Inver Grove Heights for 35 years. We have two adult children and two grandchildren. I have an associate degree from Inver Hills Community College in paralegal studies, and graduated cum laude from Hamline University with a bachelor’s degree in political science and American studies. I completed my formal education with a master’s degree in public administration, also from Hamline University.
This is an important time for local government to evaluate and prioritize services to ensure that they are of added value to residents. We take this responsibility seriously in Dakota County, despite increased demand for many of the services we provide. Let me share some of our realities.
The county’s operating budget for 2012 is $229.5 million and nearly half of that will be spent on human services, partly the result of growing demand. Public assistance cases have increased 9 percent per year since 2007, a five-year increase of 46 percent.
Demand has also increased in our libraries—we now have 2.2 million visitors to our libraries every year, with about five million items checked out annually. In 2011 we passed the one million visitors a year mark in our parks. We’ve been able to add a new park, Whitetail Woods Regional Park, to serve the south-central region of the county. In addition, the county has reached key goals in its land conservation efforts.
Started in 2003 with the funds from a voter approved referendum, the Farmland and Natural Areas Program has now protected nearly 7,000 acres of farmland and associated natural areas—protecting wildlife habitat and creating pollution buffers along crucial waterways. The total value of the land protected so far is more than $75 million. The program has able to leverage more than $45 million in non-county funding to achieve these results.
Providing a safe, efficient transportation system must remain a priority for the county. We continue to maintain 440 miles of roads, 75 bridges, 250 traffic signals, and 25,000 signs. In 2013 Dakota County, along with the Met Council and MVTA is launching the state’s first bus rapid transit service on Cedar Avenue. This will be part of a regional transitway system that includes the Hiawatha and Central Corridor light rail service and will ultimately include Robert Street, and potentially the Red Rock corridor. But these kinds of successes and the increased demand for services have not meant increased property taxes; we can never forget it’s your money.
In 2012 the Dakota County Board of Commissioners voted for no increase in the property tax levy. We approved an operating budget that actually declined by 2.2 percent ($5.1 million). We’ve managed 3 year total reduction of $30.8 million in the operating budget. In 3 years we’ve we eliminated a total of 135.8 staff positions. We continue to have the lowest number of workers per 1,000 residents of the metro area counties. We had the lowest county tax rate in 2011; we currently have the lowest rate in the metro area and the third lowest per capita county tax rate in the state.
So what does all of this mean? It means we have challenges. But despite the tough economy of the past 5 years and the need to reduce costs, Dakota County has not cut any core services and is still committed to protecting the quality of life in our communities.
I am passionate about public service, representative government and developing sound public policy. I am proud of Dakota County and what has been accomplished during my years on the County Board and believe that constituents who have and voice high expectations of their elected officials are key to our success. Keep up the good work.