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Get to know Dakota County commissioner candidate Chris Gerlach

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 good news is that Dakota County is already well run. We currently enjoy the lowest county property tax rate of any of the 87 Minnesota counties and often rank high on quality of life surveys. Dakota county levies less than 25 percent of your total property tax which is down about 2 percent from a decade ago. We want to keep it that way.

The volatility of income and sales taxes on our state budgets has caused a see-saw of deficits and surpluses. Local government budgeting is slightly more stable since it is based on more predictable property taxes. This has not completely shielded cities and counties from tough decisions about what is truly needed for our safety and security.

I've represented Apple Valley, Rosemount and Burnsville in the Minnesota Legislature over the past 14 years with a proven record favoring taxpaying citizens over growing government programs. So much of the county business is wrapped up in state policy that having this background will be very helpful to the Board and to the benefit of all of us.

I've had to make many difficult budgeting decisions over the years and will continue to do so. This past year I've been named as one of only two state senators as a "Best Friend of the Taxpayer" by the Taxpayers League of Minnesota and I've also earned the "Guardian of Small Business" award from the National Federation of Independent Businesses. You can count on me to watch out for your tax dollars.

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?

Housing and transportation are the two factors that county government can have the greatest impact on with regards to an aging population. I would support many of the innovative housing programs our Community Development Agency (CDA) has built up over the years. A clean efficient Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system along 35W, Cedar Avenue and Robert Street will also help. Since healthcare policy is set primarily at the state and federal level, we will have to work to find the best ways to implement those mandates to serve as many people as possible.

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?

One area we all agree on is that building and maintaining roads and bridges is an important role of government at all levels. Large transit projects require a combination of federal, state and local funding. For the past decade I have chief authored numerous bills for the state's portion of the Cedar Avenue BRT project. I believe transit has a place in our overall transportation system, but it must be the right type in the right place. Light rail is four times the cost and demands enormous subsidies which is why I do not support LRT in Dakota County for the foreseeable future. BRT, once completed, will give us greater capacity along our existing highways and is a much more cost effective alternative.