Watershed board is unaccountable
We submit this letter to the Daily Globe as concerned citizens of the Heron Lake Watershed. Our concerns are in regard to the government entity known as the Heron Lake Watershed District (HLWD). This district encompasses parts of Nobles, Jackson,...
We submit this letter to the Daily Globe as concerned citizens of the Heron Lake Watershed. Our concerns are in regard to the government entity known as the Heron Lake Watershed District (HLWD). This district encompasses parts of Nobles, Jackson, Murray and Cottonwood counties. The HLWD agency consists of a five-member board (appointed by the various county boards of commissioners) and a handful of employees, and is funded mainly by property tax assessments.
The problem is threefold. First of all, this non-elected board has the authority to levy taxes onto the public. In our opinion, this power should be granted to elected officials only.
Secondly, most of the work done by HLWD employees could be accomplished by the various county SWCDs (Soil and Water Conservation District) or the USDA's NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service). This is an unnecessary duplication of services and a waste of tax money.
Finally, and most importantly, is the question of value received proportionate to the money being spent. The 2006 levy for the HLWD is roughly $215,000. Approximately 80 percent is for administrative overhead, leaving only 20 percent for projects in the district.
Most people would refuse to give money to a charity that spends 80 percent of its funds for administration. Why should the HLWD be allowed to operate under these circumstances? Is the purpose of HLWD to provide lucrative compensation packages for a few people at the expense of the taxpaying public?
We believe one solution to this problem could be the termination of the HLWD. Another possible solution is to fill watershed board positions by election rather than by appointment. The current structure does not allow the public to have sufficient input on how their taxes are being spent. The watershed board needs to be directly accountable to their constituency. The public's silence on this matter, likely due to them being unaware of these circumstances, has allowed this problem to fester.
Legislation has been introduced in the Senate and House in St. Paul by Sen. Michelle Fischbach, Paynesville, and Rep. Dan Severson, Sauk Rapids, to address this election issue. Senate bill #3382 and House bill #3071 would put the election of watershed district managers on the general election ballots. Please contact your state legislators and ask them to support these important bills.