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Seifert: efficiency, cost savings main priorities

Like most other government entities, the Goodhue County Board will face many financial decisions in the coming year, including setting the 2012 budget. And as the board's new chair, Ted Seifert said efficiency is key.

"Every government agency is under pressure financially," said Seifert, who was unanimously elected chair at the board's Jan. 4 meeting. "We have to make decisions about whether to increase revenue -- through taxes -- or reduce spending."

Because of rising costs and declining state aid in recent years, Seifert said the budget -- finding ways to cut costs and grappling with what services to keep, trim or eliminate -- will be at the forefront of his priorities.

Seifert, who served as vice chair of the board last year, said the county is no stranger to tight budgets, and it has been working for years to become more efficient. For example, the county sold the old high school, which was converted into condominiums, and gained revenue both from the sale and now from taxes, he said. The county also privatized some nursing in public health.

But there's still more to be done, Seifert said.

There are many services provided by both cities and the county that could be combined, he said.

"We need to get serious about cooperating with other government entities to save money instead of duplicating services," he said.

Information technology and recycling services are some areas where Seifert said he sees potential for collaborating or privatizing.

Seifert also said the county needs to create a more attractive environment for new businesses through the tax structure and measures such as increasing broadband services in the area.

Outside of the budget, Seifert said wind energy and the decision on the Goodhue Wind project will also be an issue for the board this year.

While the county doesn't have a lot of control over the project, if approved it will have a big impact on the county's agenda, Seifert said. He added it will introduce issues including preparing local roads for increased traffic.

Seifert was elected to county board in 2002 in his second run for a commissioner spot. He said even then, the budget was one of his main priorities.

"I thought government was going the wrong way," Seifert said. "There was more spending and less personal responsibility."

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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