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Commissioners to discuss auditor-treasurer

Becker County commissioners will discuss possible consolidation of the auditor and treasurer positions at their regular meeting Tuesday.

County Auditor Keith Brekken will retire later this year after 16 years on the job, opening up the possibility of combining the auditor and treasurer positions. Both will be on the ballot this November for four-year terms.

Brekken said 53 of the state's 87 counties have combined the positions.

Treasurer Ryan Tangen said he is not opposed to consolidation.

The county board has the authority to consolidate the positions, though the action must be approved by at least 80 percent of commissioners (a 4-1 or 5-0 vote, in other words) and the position must remain elected, according to County Administrator Brian Berg.

The board action could be put to a public referendum if 10 percent or more of county voters in the last election sign a petition asking for that.

The board does not have authority to make the position appointive. That requires special legislative permission or a referendum vote, Berg said.

He said there appears to be no appetite among commissioners for making the combined position appointive, and there may not be much appetite for combining the positions at all.

"This is a young board ... They've been walking lightly and trying to rebuild the board's credibility," Berg said. "If any action is taken (Tuesday) it will probably be the formation of a study group," to examine the issue and report back to commissioners.

A consolidated position probably would not save much in personnel costs -- supervisory responsibilities would shift, but costs would still be there -- but it would make life easier for courthouse customers through streamlined service, Berg said.

It could also be a step toward "a better coordinated land function in this county," he added.

Commissioners may also want to take a look at some minor elected positions, such as county coroner and county surveyor, to see if they should remain on the ballot, Berg said.

If the board does decide to act, it must do so by June 4, to meet the statutory requirement of acting within 30 days of when filing for office opens on July 4, according to Brekken.