Board approves hiring of five employees

New hires will work on implementing aspects of Affordable Care Act

The members of the Chisago County Board of Commissioners expressed their collective dismay at the board meeting April 17 about hiring five new employees who will help the county implement aspects of the Affordable Care Act, but the commissioners said they had no choice in the matter.

The board unanimously approved the hiring.

County Administrator Bruce Messelt estimated it will take two to three months to solicit applicants for the jobs.

If all goes according to plan, the five financial employees could start working in August.

The employees will not be permanent hires; as part of the hiring plan the board approved, the workers that will be brought in to help with the influx of people filing for Medical Assistance and the state’s new MNsure program will be under contract for a period of no more than three years.

Messelt explained the state or federal government will cover some of the costs associated with the new employees, but not all.

He said reimbursement for their wages could be up to 75 cents on the dollar, or as low as 50 cents. He added that auxiliary costs, such as workspace and technology expenditures, are not going to be covered by the state or federal government.

For this year, Messelt estimated the county will be spending $36,000 to $72,000, plus additional expenses to accommodate the employees.

To cover the county’s portion of the cost, Messelt said the board will have to take cash out of the county’s Health and Human Services reserve fund, since it did not levy for the expense. Next year, he said the county board will have to think hard about how it wants to pay for the partially unfunded mandate.

If the county turns to property taxes to offset some of the cost, Messelt suggested the board inform residents why their taxes are increasing.

“Perhaps this fall would be a time for the board to direct staff to draft a letter that says, ‘By the way, Mr. and Mrs. taxpayer, this is what was added to your property tax bill that was beyond our ability to manage, control or decide.’”

Commissioner Mike Robinson asked Messelt where the five workers will be housed.

Messelt said they’d either be working out of the Government Center in Center City, or at the county’s office building in North Branch.

County Board Chairman Ben Montzka said he carefully reviewed the hiring proposal staff submitted, and he deemed it is necessary to bring in the employees.

“I don’t want to be hiring people unless I’m sure we need them,” he said. “I do support this, reluctantly, but we do have to provide the service; we have no choice.”

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