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Measuring local performance

Published (3/13/2009)
By Nick Busse
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Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth) says Minnesota has no standard set of measures it can use to evaluate the performance of cities and counties, and he sponsors a bill to change that.

HF1201 would establish a Council on Local Results and Innovation to develop minimum standards for measuring the performance of local governments. Approved March 11 by the House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee, the bill now goes to the House Taxes Committee.

The council would be charged with establishing approximately 10 measures to evaluate efficiency and effectiveness. The standards would be voluntary; however, cities and counties that choose to adopt them would be eligible for per capita reimbursements and be exempted from levy limits and truth-in-taxation hearing requirements.

Marquart said lawmakers currently have little understanding of how effectively local government aid payments, which he said account for 9 percent of the state budget, are being used by cities and counties.

As a state and as policymakers, we really do not know what were getting for those dollars going out, Marquart said.

Local governments that participate in the program would have to publish results annually for their residents, and also file reports with the Office of the State Auditor. Council members would include the state auditor, representatives from the League of Minnesota Cities and Association of Minnesota Counties, and eight members appointed by chairs of legislative committees with jurisdiction over property taxes.

Rep. Mark Buesgens (R-Jordan) said he is concerned that the 10 performance measures might someday evolve into 10 performance mandates on local governments. He added that local governments might be better off each having their own approach, rather than one umbrella of mandated performance measures or standards.

The bill was also approved March 9 by the House Local Government Division. There is no Senate companion.

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