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Paynesville Press - July 9, 2003

Stearns County Commissioners

The Stearns County Board of Commissioners took the following actions at their meeting on Tuesday, July 1.

•The commissioners agreed to keep the closing time at 1 a.m. for all bars in Stearns County. The Legislature passed a law allowing bars to apply for a special permit to stay open until 2 a.m., but so far the county has not received any permit applications for the 2 a.m. closing time.

The county will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, Aug. 5, at 10 a.m. with the intent to change the county ordinance to require bars to close at 1 a.m.

•The commissioners voted to freeze their salaries for the next year, due to the budget crunch. Usually, the commissioners do not set their salaries until December, but the board wanted to set an example as the county begins its budgeting process.

The current salary for a commissioner is $29,680 per year. They do not get per diems. Per resident, the total cost for the county board is the fifth lowest in the state.

•The board noted that some county fees increased as of July 1. Fee increases as of July 1, 2003, include: notary fees (from $1 to $2); off sale beer licenses (from $30 to $50); on sale beer licenses (from $155 to $170 per year); liquor off sale licenses (from $258 to $275 per year); park shelter permits (from $30 to $40 per day, no caretakers; from $35 to $45 per day with caretakers from M-TH; and from $35 to $50 per day with caretakers from F-S); park vehicle permits (from $3.50 to $4 per day and from $12 to $14 per year); and providing sheriff's deputies for building moving (from $27 to $50 per hour per deputy).

A complete list of fee increases is located at More fee increases will take effect on Jan. 1, 2004.

•The board was told by the county assessor that new construction grew by 12 percent. Countywide, estimated market values increased by an average of 18 percent. The average home sale price was $137,000 in 2002, compared to $122,000 in 2001.

Not including the city of St. Cloud, 752 new homes were built in the county. With this growth, the tax capacity for the county increased by $8 to $10 million.

This is the first year that the county has implemented the Green Acres program - which allows farmers to pay taxes based on the agricultural value of the land rather than the assessed value - and already 57 percent of those eligible have applied for the program.

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