Larry Farber*, Sherburne County Board of Commissioners District 1
Family: My father was Dr Lawrence A Farber, a well known and respected neurologist. He worked for Noran Clinic in Minneapolis for over thirty years. Unfortunately he passed away to Non Hoskins Lymphoma just over a year ago. My mother was Margaret Jean Farber, a nurse and mother of three. She lost her battle to breast cancer twenty eight years ago. I have 3 sons Jason, a former Iraqi vet. Jacob, a border patrol agent and Joey, a recent college graduate. I also have 3 grandchildren, Ella age 4, Izzy Age 3 and JJ age 2.
Occupation: Currently I am the Sherburne County Commissioner for District 1, Elk River. As a County Commissioner I sit on over 20 Commissions or Boards representing Sherburne County. I want you to know its been an honor and privilege to serve you.
Previous civic and community involvement:
I was a City Council Person for 12 years for Ward 3. On the EDA (Economic Development Authority) for 12 Years, and the Elk River Ice Arena Commission for 11 years. I was also a member of the HRA (Housing and Redevelopment Authority) for 5 years, and the Elk River Park and Recreation Board for 2 years. Furthermore, I was a member of the Elk River Hockey Blue Line Club and I assisted in coaching youth at a variety of sports. I was also a Jaycee and I am currently an Elk River Lion.
1.What prompted you to run for the Sherburne County Board of Commissioners?
I love Elk River and felt with my experience I could do more for the community and county. I learned as a council person and commissioner that 5 people coming together as one is much better than one speaking for five. I bring this team approach to the board and the results speak for themselves. I believe I have represented you well and look forward to 4 more years.
2. What makes you qualified to be a member of the County Board?
The first qualification which I have is that I am a County Commissioner and the Board Chair serving on over 20 committees representing Sherburne County. I am always open to new ideas and willing to listen to all sides of the issues. I always seek input from not only staff but the citizens of Elk River and Sherburne County. I am a team player with no personal agendas!
3. What are the top issues facing Sherburne County?
The top issues are Economic Development, Mandate reform, and Tax reform. The reactivation of the Economic development Authority was a step forward, along with the county board attracting two data centers with two more ready to sign. I believe the other issues need to be dealt with by working with our State Delegation in restoring trust that has been lost.
4. What distinguishes you from your opponent and makes you a better choice for the position?
While we both have law enforcement careers, I took public service to another level. I ran for public office and was elected to the city Council for 12 years and have been the county commissioner for the past 4 years. I understand local government and I have made the the connections and developed the relationships with county board members, and others throughout the state.
5. What will your top goals as a Sherburne County Commissioner be?
Working towards tax reform because the tax payers cannot afford any more increases, let alone pay their current taxes. A goal I hope to see this term would be, televised board meetings so that there can be more communication and transparency in local government. Have meetings at night once a month so people can attend and give there input on all issues.
6. Is it important for the county to continue supporting Northstar Commuter Rail as a transportation option for residents’ business and recreational use? Do you support the extension of the Northstar Commuter Rail Line to St. Cloud?
The commuter rail was originally set up to go from Minneapolis to St Cloud. With the goal half done, the North Star continues to flourish in Sherburne County with 52% of its ridership out of Big Lake and Elk River. This continues to grow with the North Star Link (bus) bringing people back and forth from Big Lake to St Cloud proving the extension is warranted.
7. What initiatives would you support to improve government for Sherburne County residents?
My top initiatives would be to work with our state delegation to do away with the state property tax for businesses and recreational home owners, also work on a fair property tax code. An example would be the agriculture tax. It is based on 5 southwest county land values. This is unfair due to the very different soil and land conditions throughout the state.
8. If the board continues to keep the county levy from growing through the coming years, where should commissioners place priorities when costs are certain to grow?
The costs are certain to grow, and an area that needs to be a priority, mandates. They are imposed on us by the state and federal government. Mandates are exactly what they sound like you have to provide the service whether funded or not. I believe my top priority is too continuously work with our state delegation and staff to come up with mandate reforms.
9. What are the biggest threats facing Sherburne County? What can be done about them?
We need to work on state and local relationships. In the past our representation was more urban than rural . We now have redistricting and all rural local representation. We need this relationship so we can work on real tax reform and mandate relief. Another threat are landfills, yes we need them but when they shut down counties are financially responsible forever.
10. What decisions of the county board have liked. What decisions of the county board have you not liked?
I cannot think of any decisions I have disliked. I am proud to say your Sherburne County Board and Staff work very well together. The issues are continuously worked on so that its easy when they come up. I am not saying anything is rubber stamped, What I am saying is that hard work is done before the meetings not just at the meetings.
Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce Questions
Should Sherburne County change how it funds its share of Northstar operations?*
The answer is yes, I believe we should be funding North Star like the rest of the Counties involved. The counties involved are Metro County’s belonging to CTIB (Counties Transit Improvement Board) they are Ramsey County, Hennepin County, Anoka County, Dakota County and Washington County. The Metro Counties of Scott and Carver can join at any time. Sherburne County was part of this the bill for CTIB but was removed for no known reason and nor were we advised until it was done. The CTIB funding comes from a ¼ percent sales tax for the counties involved which is pooled by the counties to pay the operating expenses for North Star, and other transportation projects within CTIB. We are the only county within North Star that has to levy to pay the operating expenses to run North Star which is more of a burden to tax payers. I would like to see not only Sherburne County part of CTIB but Stearns County as well. It is a fairer way to pay for the operations and if we are to have future lines like North Star a funding source like this is needed to fund the operations because smaller counties cannot afford the tax levy’s to run the rail lines. North Star is a commuter rail line and Elk River and Big Lake provide 52% of the ridership going to Minneapolis and Returning from Minneapolis. We also have a bus Link from St Cloud to Big Lake showing the connection to St Cloud to Big Lake. The ridership on the link has grown every year and every month proving the line should be continued and finished in St Cloud. The funding of North Star needs to change so that it is a fair system for the tax payers and so the line can be finished in St Cloud.
*What steps would you consider to reduce the property tax burden to local businesses?
The steps I would work towards in reducing the property tax burden for the people of Sherburne County would be to first start with the State property tax. The state property tax for business and recreational homes was started about 12 years ago to assist in paying for education. I do not believe it has ever been dedicated to that and the tax goes up every year which is done by the Department of Revenue. The problem with this tax is that increases cannot be questioned and is something that should not be done. The county should not be collecting a tax for the State which shows up on your property tax statement. Businesses have a heavy tax burden without this newer tax. I have questioned this as well as the Sherburne County Board. We found that state representatives didn’t know about the tax and through education they found it was there and they are working to get rid of it. This is a topic that I will keep working on to help business owners and recreation home owners on paying an extra tax they should not have to pay.
I would also work with the new elected State delegation to look at the incredible complicated tax code to make it fairer to tax payers. An example of this would be the way Agriculture land is evaluated. The current system to evaluate Agriculture land is by taking 5 counties from southwest Minnesota taking the average value from them and set the value for the rest of the state. The problem with this is that the land there doesn’t need the watering due to the soil being made up of heavy clay and black dirt. Sherburne County is sandy soil and with lands that cannot be used for farming. Sherburne counts on using irrigation to keep the crops alive because of sandy soil conditions. The state system of taxing the land is not fair because the lands although both being Ag do not have the same value due to the costs of making it usable. These would be just a few but very important steps to reduce the tax burden.
Does the County need greater flexibility and control over how it spends its own budget and if yes, how would you work to affect that type of change?
*The state mandates Minnesota counties especially in Human Services. The county needs greater flexibility in this area because there are two types of mandates funded and unfunded. The county has a lot of each and as each year goes on the funded become less funded and more mandates occur every year. The problem with this as an example: mandates that were enacted 30 years ago may not be applicable now but no one at the state is willing to go back and remove it. Sherburne County belongs to AMC (Association of Minnesota County’s) which is an organization that as a large group (87 County’s) lobby the state to change laws and mandates that make no sense. I believe the future requires the state to be flexible and allow counties more power to determine what works and what does not. I have been given a top ten list by our Human Service director on mandates that don’t work and could be done away with without lessening service for clients and could be helped in other programs at cheaper costs and better services. AMC presented the state with something called the MAGIC act which would allow counties on a case by case to determine what works and doesn’t work and do what was necessary to improve service and save money. The bill was passed by the State Senate but failed at the State House of Representatives. I listened to the reasoning by the house and it came down to the fact the state did not want to give their power to the counties. I will work with my fellow commissioners in educating the new house and senate as to why it works and to not fear giving up power they can always take it back if it doesn’t work. The counties know what works and how we can save money which is necessary especially in this recession and its time we had control over how it is spent.