2021 Budget Responses to Public Questions
During the 2021 supplemental budget process, questions in the following topic areas were raised by commissioners or members of the public. Please see questions and responses below.
Financial Assistance Services
How do we work with navigators to ensure we’re helping people get through applications and reporting processes?
There are two financial workers embedded at each Service Center to provide navigators with assistance answering program eligibility questions or case related questions. They can also aid with the processing of applications.
Are the funds appropriated for youth homelessness used directly for shelter and housing?
No. We will be gathering to decide where the unspent funds will be targeted. We are not using the appropriated funds for direct shelter or housing costs. Those costs are being covered by the department’s Emergency Assistance/Emergency General Assistance funds.
Regarding percent of homeless youth coming out of HSRA, are there measures in place that tell us where we need to target our response?
The ambassador program came about in response to the HSRA data showing a high number of homeless youth. FAS is piloting strategy to combat youth homelessness, developing the homeless youth ambassadors’ program.
The need for EA/EGA services hasn’t been as high but are there any requests/unmet needs that need attention or are still in the process of being reviewed?
No needs have been identified that we haven’t been addressing. We’re doing more outreach with landlords. We have not experienced any new unmet client needs.
How does the new youth homelessness program fit into our new Housing Office?
The new Homeless Youth Ambassador Program is a housing initiative to stably house youth before they become entrenched in the cycle of homelessness. The program is a good fit for the Housing Office because it is one of many housing programs the county will offer, but one of few that is on the early intervention side. Work is actively underway to identify the programs and functions that will transition from HWST to EGCI. More information will be available in the coming weeks.
How can we advocate for continuing existing waivers or making them permanent?
One waiver we want to make permanent is no longer requiring face to face interviews for initial cash benefits. Counties have partnered with AMC on several waivers that have been put in place since the peacetime emergency that we would like to have extended and/or implemented permanently. The Blue-Ribbon MNWaivers handout is a summary of those waivers.
Regarding calls to FAS being dropped, is it a capacity or a technology issue?
We want to see the technology be enhanced but right now it is mainly a capacity issue.
Regarding CARES funding that needs to be spent by the end of the year - when the funding goes away, how do we see FAS continuing to do the work without that funding?
A FAS team currently working to ensure the funds are spent by the end of the year by increasing the availability of and accessibility to safe, decent and affordable housing for residents by reimbursing small landlords for missed or reduced rent payments between March 2020 and December 2020 due to COVID-19.
Comment from Commissioner: We should measure/highlight the transformative work we’re doing the county. Example of a transformative measure: How many youth are in permanent housing one year after aging out of foster care? The numbers may not be great, and it may be difficult to measure, but we should move in this direction of these type of measures.
The department is working with our community engagement group, Ramsey United, to identify a few transformative measures.
What is the extent to which the holdback on demand in EGA/EA assistance is because of a delay for evictions? Will this end up being a huge need later in the year?
Residents can get assistance if they are behind on payments, before an eviction is in place. In addition, the department has been working with the court to get a listing of eviction hearings that have been scheduled so a financial worker can reach out to the resident regarding Emergency Assistance. For 2021, the department has allocated $2.7M to Emergency Assistance. We have the option of shifting more dollars to this area from our TANF Block Grant if needed. As mentioned above, if there is need beyond our funding, we will return to the board to consider options to provide these critical services.
Is application processing prioritized as an area that requires great capacity at this time? Can we apply CARES funding to this?
The department has used CARES funds for our clerical support staff who are taking CARES Emergency Assistance applications over the phone based on our best estimate of where we thought our greatest needs are in the community. Now we are reallocating dollars based more on data. FAS is working with the CARES Compliance and Oversight Committee and a small workgroup to consider how to respond to support families in our community. A board report will come forward in November with more information, but we plan to spend this funding on additional programs within the scope of the originally approved RBA. We are also working with other departments and counties with regards to how they are spending their CARES funding.
Regarding flexible hours for staff - how can we identify what is needed expand our availability beyond our traditional work hours when residents needs assistance?
The department has identified access to the state-run computer systems, as well as support from IS to address any computer issues a worker may have as key needs to address this. The non-traditional hours the department is pursuing cover early morning, evening and weekend hours with an attempt to cover the hours residents would need assistance. The DHS maxis help desk hours were expanded to include hours from 8-10 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Regarding transformative measures with a Residents First focus, we should think about how we are measuring customer satisfaction and experience. We should ask if they feel treated well by staff and if our processes are leading to better outcomes for families.
This will be incorporated into the CARES emergency assistance evaluation.
Do you know the demographics of your clients in comparison to the demographics of veterans in Ramsey County?
In 2019, we added race data to our system as part of our efforts to expand and enhance demographic data about the people we serve with a focus on improving services to elderly and disabled veterans and veterans of color
As a part of the Health and Wellness Service Team, Veterans Services will have the support of evaluators and analysts with expertise in mining data and information from the Veterans Services Database and other state systems. An immediate focus of these collaborative efforts will be to gain a better understanding of the demographics of Veterans Services clients as it compares to the overall demographic of veterans residing in Ramsey County.
Information gleaned from these efforts will inform how Veterans Services partners with FAS, Social Services, Public Health and Corrections to improve access to public assistance benefits and programs for veterans served by our staff. In 2019, we added race data to our system as part of our efforts to expand and enhance demographic data about the people we serve with a focus on improving our services to elderly and disabled veterans and veterans of color.
Many clients may want to meet in-person, but how do veterans prefer to engage? In person vs. virtual?
Many are comfortable with virtual/over-the-phone engagement. It does make it a little difficult to establish trust and close relationships when the conversations start and continues as only virtual engagements.
Information and Public Records Administration
Could we get more information on how the Unified Team is transitioning to bringing services together under one team? Also, we would like more information about the unified service delivery model. Could we get results of the measurements?
The IPR Unified Team continues to cross train on existing service areas (property tax, recording and homesteading), to broaden the knowledge and skill base of the existing workforce. Many staff are also cross-trained to assist in Elections. Regarding the metrics, customer satisfaction was measured at 4.39 (on a five-point scale) in 2019. Due to COVID-19, no survey was completed in May 2020, however a survey is scheduled for mid-October. Updated metrics will be published on the open data portal.
The unified service delivery work lead by the Incident Management Team in response to COVID-19 is in the process of being transitioned to the Information and Public Records Service Team before the end of 2020. Under the Residents First Program, IPR will lead the countywide planning effort to design and operationalize service delivery. The five Ramsey County Service Centers are tracking and reporting the number of engagements by location as well as computer workstation usage, on the Service Delivery Tracker on Ramseycounty.us.
Property Tax & Election Services
What information will come back to Property Tax subcommittee?
The Property Tax subcommittee met on Sept. 20, 2020 and below are the recommendations from the discussion:
- No blanket deferment of 2nd half property tax due date. Sense is that it isn’t needed generally and that taxpayers now better understand how COVID -19 impacts their income stream and ability to pay. Olmsted has adopted 12/15; Dakota is looking at 11/15; Hennepin is currently planning not to defer.
- No change to one-time penalty waiver program.
- Continue to monitor collections and inquiries and report back to the subcommittee if a change is needed that cannot be handled administratively under delegated authority given to the County Treasurer.
- Stay the course on legislative requests.
- Continue to fund and seek additional funding for assistance for renters, both small businesses and individuals, as these groups have been more heavily impacted by COVID-19.
Information about voting, including dropping off ballots in-person or by mail, can be found here:
Elections: Need a report after the general election. Also, elections office needs to make sure that people understand how to get an absentee ballot, how to fill them out correctly, where and how they can drop them off at drop-off locations, and that everyone understands how the security of the system and the secrecy of the ballot are assured.
At the time these questions were raised, we were still in the process of establishing the drop-off locations, logistics for the locations, webpages, etc. Since then, the board has received the requested information and it has been put on the elections webpage. We are also working actively with communications to educate voters on these voting and ballot return opportunities.
How can we be more effective and efficient with our partnership with AMC, sheriff’s offices and prosecutors’ offices to reduce the number of people sent to prison?
John Klavins from the Ramesy County Sheriff's Office and John Choi are working with DCM Scott Williams to develop a presentation for the county board in a board workshop later this year around incarceration that will attempt to answer this question and other related questions.
FTE is more about police patrol FTE, not RCAO. With budget cuts in other police agencies, how will they prioritize sexual assault investigations? What should we keep in mind as we move forward with the budget?
RCAO and RCSO will continue to prioritize sexual assault investigations. Regarding the progress around Ramsey County’s implementation plan for improving sexual assault response, RCAO and Public Health will be working with law enforcement to prepare a written report for the board of commissioners and public. This item was recently brought up at the implementation working group meeting and the group agreed to take this on to present such information to interested commissioners later this year.
How do we reduce/prevent evictions?
We are looking at other jurisdictions and what they are doing. As we discussed at the Sept. 1 budget hearing, this is an issue that is starting to impact our community. The County Attorney is thinking about this issue and has made inquiries to other communities, but the reality is there is not much that the prosecutor can do around civil evictions. However, the Sheriff’s Office could possibly have some impact on the issue by how they enforce and administer evictions, but that conversation should be had with the Sheriff’s Office.
On page 41 of the budget book there is other work noted, will we see data and metrics for those in the ODP?
RCAO is currently in the process of developing a data dashboard which could provide excellent metrics for the open data portal. As part of this year’s budget process, departments were asked to present just a few performance measures but RCAO certainly has many more performance measures we could present. RCAO is working to develop more measures related to the work described on page 41 and share this information with the community. Transparency is an important piece of prosecutor reform and how we think about the work performed by the prosecutor. When thinking about how to develop RCAO’s data dashboard, we are fortunate to be working with the VERA Institute of Justice and the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution as 1 of 3 pilot communities across the nation to work very intentionally around race disparities, thoroughly analyzing our data, and then share our work with the community to be transparent and working toward providing better outcomes for our community and the people referred to our office.
Could we have more information regarding why numbers are down, but the disparities are not?
There will be a board workshop on mass incarceration and can address the disparities number in the fall. We are in the process of setting a date for this workshop.
How do you share opportunities with community to do this work that aligns with vision, mission and values of the county? How do you ensure that community is aware of the opportunity in equitable manner? Is sheriff community engagement aligned with the county’s community engagement?
The Sheriff’s Office has a comprehensive and inclusive countywide public safety agenda that focuses on community engagement. As noted at the budget hearing, we welcome the opportunity for more collaboration with the county departments. Community awareness of our work is achieved in several ways as we actively promote and engage in meaningful and inclusive community engagement.
First measure (% reduction for adult detention population) is different than what was shared in the first budget packet. Why modification in change or how you measure the performance measures? Why no data for 2018, 2019 and 2020? Why the shift? How is percentage reduction tied back to the performance? Is there a baseline to show where we are going?
There was no bail reform work in 2017 or 2018. The work actually began in September 2019. We spent the year working and building partnership. In 2020, work started but halted due to pandemic. Previously we only measured static average daily population.
Why are the squads wearing RCSO t-shirts? What's the effort to end community gun violence in North End?
Working in partnership with the community and partners, the goal is to bring an end gun violence everywhere. As noted at the budget hearing, we welcome the opportunity for more collaboration with other county departments. If your offices and other county departments would like to further engage the Sheriff’s Office on this issue or any other issue, we welcome the opportunity.
What's the data or evidence on outreach work with kids and what neighborhoods the kids come from? Outcomes of outreach efforts by RSCO?
The Sheriff’s Office restored youth crime prevention programs so longitudinal data is not available yet. Youth served have access to athletics, outdoor activities, life skills and literacy enhancement. The goal is to prevent youth from becoming involved in criminal activity and encourage more positive choices. Youth are from economically disadvantaged and under-served neighborhoods across Ramsey County.
What is the status of the live patrols by sheriff?
The Sheriff’s Office provides countywide services (i.e., water patrol, court security, transports, civil process, detention, etc.), so it is not uncommon to see Ramsey County Sheriff squads across the county, including in Saint Paul (where four out of the five courthouses are located). The Contract City function only accounts for 16% of our overall budget with the remaining supported by the county tax levy.
How is RCSO providing police stop data, what's the racial impact? Maybe provide same data to contracted cities for same information.
All available responsive data has been provided to the city of Falcon Heights.
Is the ME pamphlet accessible for youth? What are opportunities to engage and involve youth population? Is it age-appropriate for youth?
Yes. It's a broad view of what the purpose of the Medical Examiner's Office is.
Additional information: The Medical Examiner evaluated the statistics of drug overdoses from Ramsey County for 2020, 2019 and 2018 regarding racial disparity. Deaths from drug overdoses are broken down to percentages for different races.
- 2020: White (59%), Black (29%), Hispanic (2%), Asian (3%), Native American (6%).
- 2019: White (46%), Black (19%), Hispanic (8%), Asian (5%), Native American (11%).
- 2018: White (69%), Black (25%), Hispanic (3%), Asian (0%), Native American (3%).
How are we handling the backlog and prioritizing of cases, so people aren't waiting in detention? Similar question regarding children in out of home placement.
- Continuing to seek information regarding out of home placement.
- Pre-pandemic, we struggled to place children where they need to be and out of the system.
- The more we can set hearings, the more we can resolve.
- Civil is on schedule. No delays like criminal court.
- Juvenile court has not had a hearing backlog since June.
Can you provide a cross-county comparative analysis on roads?
The following shows how Ramsey County compares to our metro county counterparts on Pavement Quality Index (PQI):
- Anoka County - Current PQI: 69; PQI goal: 75.
- Dakota County - Current PQI: 70; PQI goal: 70.
- Carver County - Current PQI: 74; PQI goal: 75.
- Hennepin County - Current PQI: 65; PQI goal: 67.
- Ramsey County - Current PQI: 61; PQI goal: 62.
- Scott County - Current PQI: 71; PQI goal: 72.
- Washington County - Current PQI: 68; PQI goal: 72.
How is Public Works working with Procurement to make sure we are meeting our goals in equity in contracting and workforce inclusion?
Public Works is part of the EGCI Purchasing and Contracting Action Team (PCAT) and actively working with the other departments within EGCI to improve our equity in contracting and workforce inclusion.
How is the wheelage tax performing in improving our pavement and other roadway infrastructure items?
We will be preparing the 2020 Pavement Report and sending it out within the next month. This report highlights the projects that were completed in 2019 and identifies those that planned to be completed in 2020 that are a result of the wheelage tax. As we look forward to 2021, the budgetary impacts to our county state aid highway account will have a direct impact on the number of projects that we will be able to complete using wheelage tax because of the shift from capital projects to covering operating and maintenance costs.
Parks & Recreation
Can you provide analysis of how parks/facilities usage has changed during pandemic?
Anecdotal evidence suggests that park usage was higher this year than ever before, and preliminary numbers from partner agencies indicate that park and trail usage may have increased as much as 30%.
Can you provide information on how we’re planning for possible increased use during winter months, including at facilities that are normally underused during winter?
Parks normally close during the last weekend in October but will now all be open with portable toilet facilities until Nov. 23. Parks typically open during the first weekend in May. Parks staff is planning for a spring 2021 opening of facilities the week of April 12.
Parks will expand the Keller Regional Park two-week winter recreation event that took place in 2020 to include winter recreation activities at McCarrons County Park and Battle Creek Regional Park during the winter of 2021. Activities will include programs such as cross-country skiing, kick-sledding, curling, sledding and a warming campfire.
What are we doing to maintain and increase connections to diverse communities and partners?
Developing communication pieces to illustrate winter recreation opportunities in Ramsey County Parks, to be shared via social media and mailed to areas of concentrated poverty.
Parks will work with the Racial Equity and Community Engagement Action Teams (RECEAT) to better connect diverse communities to the parks during fall and winter.
The Met Council has new competitive equity grants for programming in regional parks, and Parks will be working this fall to develop a robust and impactful application.
Parks had contracted with a community engagement professional who is designing a community engagement process with the goal of achieving the 21st Century Parks vision, which includes actively seeking out and engaging with racially diverse residents to develop a Parks system that meets their recreational wants and needs and is welcoming and inclusive for all.
What are we doing to ensure all aspects of the work we do are open to the 21st Century visioning process, including early childhood and the opportunities available to young people?
Tamarack’s My Nature Preschool is open, and we provide Tamarack programming for small in-person groups, outreach to bring a naturalist to school locations, and live virtual group programming.
The 21st Century visioning process will again provide a template for how to effectively engage with community. Part of that process will be the identification of need that residents are communicating they have within their community. If early childhood education, for example, is identified as a high priority within a community, Parks will explore opportunities to meet that community need.
How is the Library system adjusting to the times with their new service delivery model? We would like to hear more at EGCI workshop forum.
The Library is developing plans to offer walk-in express service, which includes browsing the shelves, picking up holds, checking out items, or using a computer, printer or fax/scan machine. Libraries will limit the number of people in a building at one time and length of visit. We are working with staff in Libraries, Property Management, Public Health and other county staff to determine where and when this can be safely offered in conjunction with other onsite initiatives such as voting, Career Lab and county Service Center offerings. Phase one implementation at smaller sites is estimated to launch in the first week of November. Larger sites with voting and service centers will be phased in later as they require greater space adaptation.
How have activities been impacted by the loss of use of the second floor of historic barn? Where will county fair and youth activities be held, etc.?
The second floor of the Barn is no longer available for public use with the demolition of the structurally deficient access ramp. The Fair will need to accommodate the activities that had been held on the second floor in other locations on the grounds as they deem appropriate.
Community & Economic Development
Can you provide more info on the assistance that CED is providing for stable housing, home ownership and businesses?
CED will begin pulling together data and information for purposes of an Annual Report to be presented to the board near the beginning of 2021. The extent of the report will include the HUD programs, COVID-19 response and relief, and the vision plan.
Can you provide more info on their role in Transforming Systems Together on racial equity and civil unrest?
Our Ramsey County Means Business (RCMB) site directs businesses to the array of small business relief programs at each level of government and how to reach 14 various culturally specific technical assistance agencies to assist in getting relief. The Small Business Relief program was executed in partnership with the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers (MCCD) and the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability who acted as Outreach Manager to the technical assistance agencies. The intent of aggressive outreach was to ensure that BIPOC businesses were well informed of the grant program and that any barrier to applying was removed. The RISE page has a full breakdown of information on the total amount disbursed to businesses, and demographic information as well. The RCMB site also lists a series of efforts and resources for areas that experienced damage as a result of civil unrest. Information for those resources can be found on Business4BusinessMSP.com.
Can you provide ongoing updates on how CED is using CARES funds?
The RISE page contains frequently updated information pertaining to the Small Business Relief program created through CARES funds. Regular Board updates will also be provided.