How County Program Aid (CPA) lowers your taxes and why legislators need to care.

How County Program Aid (CPA) lowers your taxes and why legislators need to care.

It’s safe to assume most Renville County residents have never heard of county program aid (CPA) or frequent the topic at family dinner discussions. However, in an age where perceptions of rising property taxes create palpable frustration, it’s important to take a glimpse into this key resource and learn how the legislature’s attention to this topic could alleviate your property tax bill.

Property taxes have, and most likely will always be, the main source of revenue for county operations. While counties are responsible for providing a variety of services, a large majority of county spending is mandated by the state. For example, when the state mandates a county to provide essential services on its behalf—such as child protection or mental health—but only provides a portion of the funds necessary to carry out the job, the county must divert its property tax revenue, intended for local use, to pay for the state’s costs.

Over time, counties’ roles as administrators for state created programs have grown larger and more complex. Though legislators responsible for creating new county requirements often made sure to reimburse counties for new expenses, their successors have sometimes forgotten, leaving counties and their property tax payers footing the bill resulting in property tax increases.

Over a decade ago, Minnesota consolidated the funding for several of its mandated programs into a single program called "county program aid," or CPA for short. The CPA program was intended to cover the costs of state programs so that counties could reserve more of their property tax dollars for programs specific to the needs of their home communities. At the time, CPA totaled $205,000,000 and was divided up amongst all 87 counties based on a variety of need and tax base factors. More importantly, however, the creation of county program aid acted as a recognition of the vast number of duties, services and unfunded mandates that counties carry-out on a day-to-day basis, and an acknowledgement that the state was responsible in shouldering some of the burden to alleviate local property tax increases.

Unfortunately, legislators have neglected to keep pace with funding and Renville County has seen its aid source severely reduced over the last decade. What’s worse is that because of uncorrected formula flaws, agricultural counties like Renville have been hit double. In Renville County, aid has fallen 65% since 2005. A decade ago, Renville County received over $46 per person in aid. Today, that number is less than $18. The inconsistency in funding and misconception that agricultural based counties are richer, property tax wise, than all other counties is directly impacting Renville County’s ability to budget and plan for the future and continues to have an impact on your property tax bill.

This year we are asking the legislature to take a look at CPA and recommit to the program they’ve neglected to adequately fund for far too long. With the addition of new child protection mandates, mental health care cost shifts, future buffer enforcement responsibilities, and the absence of necessary transportation funding, Renville County will once again be dealing with several unfunded or underfunded state regulations. CPA is a critical tool to help offset the underfunded costs of these state requirements and we need the legislature to act!

For more information on county program aid, please talk to your commissioners or visit: