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Hennepin County, Minnesota

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Budget Y
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Meetings Y
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Elected Officials Y
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Administrative Officials
Permits, zoning N
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Contracts P
Lobbying Y
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Public records N
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Local taxes Y
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Transparency grading process

Hennepin County is one of 87 counties in Minnesota. It is the most populous county in the U.S. state of Minnesota. The county is bordered by the Mississippi River on the east and north and the Minnesota River on the south. Hennepin County is at the center of seven-county Minneapolis-St. Paul, the sixteenth largest metropolitan area in the United States with about 3.2 million residents. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the population of Hennepin County at 1,122,093 in 2006. The county seat is Minneapolis, the largest city in the state. The center of population of Minnesota is located in the city of Rogers.

Website evaluation

Last rated on September 17, 2012.

The good

  • Budget
    • Budgets are posted..[1]
  • Meetings
    • Meeting schedule, agendas, minutes, and videos are posted.[2]
  • Elected Officials
    • Provides a list of the commissioners and their contact information.[3]
  • Administrative Officials
    • Officials are listed with contact information.[4]
  • Audits
    • Audits are posted.[5]
  • Contracts
    • Bids are posted.[6]
  • Lobbying
  • Local Taxes
    • Provides local tax information and rates.[8]

The bad

  • Building Permits and Zoning
    • No information on building permits or zoning.
  • Contracts
    • Current contracts are not posted.
  • Public Records


Like all counties in Minnesota, Hennepin is governed by an elected and nonpartisan board of commissioners. In Minnesota, county commissions usually have five members, but Hennepin, Ramsey, and St Louis counties have seven members. Each commissioner represents a district of equal population. In Hennepin the county commission appoints the medical examiner, county auditor-treasurer and county recorder. The sheriff and county attorney are also elected on a nonpartisan ticket. The county government's headquarters are in downtown Minneapolis in the Hennepin County Government Center. The county oversees the Hennepin County Library system, which in 2008 merged with and incorporated the Minneapolis Public Library system.

County Board of Commissions

The county commission elects a chair who presides at meetings. Commissioners as of April 2011

District Commissioner
1st Mike Opat (chair)
2nd Mark Stenglein (vice-chair)
3rd Gail Dorfman
4th Peter McLaughlin
5th Randy Johnson
6th Jan Callison
7th Jeff Johnson

County Attorney

The County Attorney serves as the chief prosecutor of all adult felony crimes and juvenile offenses in Hennepin County. The County Attorney is also responsible for providing legal counsel to the County Board of Commissioners and all county departments, as well as representing the county in civil lawsuits, child support matters, child protection actions and mental health commitments.[9]

Mike Freeman is the current County Attorney. He administers an office with nearly 400 staff members and 165 lawyers.[9] Current initiatives include:[9]

  • gang prosecution
  • protecting vulnerable adults
  • educational neglect and truancy
  • mortgage fraud

County Administration

Hennepin County's normal operations are coordinated by the County Administrator Richard Johnson, Deputy Administrator David Hough, Assistant County Administrator for Human Services and Public Health Daniel E. Engstrom and Assistant County Administrator for Public Works Marthand Nookala.

The county administrator makes recommendations to the county board, implements its policies, provides leadership to the organization and assures effective delivery of county services. Departments reporting directly to the county administrator include:[10]

  • Budget and Finance
  • Human Resources
  • Intergovernmental Relations
  • Internal Audit
  • Labor Relations
  • Libraries
  • Metropolitan Health Plan
  • Primary Care
  • Public Affairs
  • Research, Planning & Development

The deputy administrator assists in the development of proposed operating and capital budgets and policy recommendations for the county board, recommends new management approaches and strategies, and develops more effective methods of delivering county services. County operations reporting directly to the deputy administrator include:[10]

  • Community Corrections
  • County Assessor
  • Information Technology
  • Law Library
  • Medical Examiner
  • Property Services
  • Purchasing and Contract Services
  • Taxpayer Services

The assistant county administrator for Human Services and Public Health is responsible for the overall administration and financial management of Hennepin County’s human services delivery system. Specific duties include:[10]

  • advising the county board, county administrator, and deputy county administrator on human service policies and issues;
  • coordinating the examination and implementation of human services legislation;
  • coordinating community-based human services.

The assistant county administrator for Public Works is responsible for advising the county board, county administrator and deputy county administrator on policies and issues and ensuring coordination between Public Works departments, public and private agencies, community organizations and partnerships. The assistant county administrator also serves as the Deputy Executive Director of the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority. Public Works departments reporting to the assistant county administrator are:[10]

  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Environmental Services
  • Housing, Community Works and Transit
  • Public Works Management Support
  • Transportation


On September 27, 2010, Hennepin County Administrator Richard P. Johnson presented the County Council with his 2011 Hennepin County budget recommendation.[11]

The proposed 2011 Hennepin County budget is approximately $1.6 billion. This is an overall proposed decrease of 5.2 percent, or $86 million, from the adjusted 2010 budget. The proposed operating portion of the budget totals $1.4 billion, which is a decrease of 1.8 percent, or $25.6 million, from the 2010 adjusted budget. The capital budget totals $135.3 million, which is $60.4 million, or 30.9 percent less than the adjusted 2010 level.[11]

With respect to operations, budgets for all business lines are reduced, ranging from 9.9 percent for General Government departments and 4.2 percent in Human Services, to the smallest reductions -- less than 2 percent -- in Public Safety and Libraries. This results in cost savings but also means that residents and clients are seeing reductions in some services. And, 2011 is the second year in a two-year labor agreement with no employee cost-of-living adjustment, and there are no step increases for 2011.[11]

The proposed capital budget totals $135.3 million, which is 30.9 percent less than the adjusted 2010 capital budget. Much of the difference between the two budgets is due to the Lowry Avenue Bridge being fully funded in 2010 and reductions in proposed funding for Library and General Government projects.[11]

There is no increase in the property tax levy for this proposed budget. The net property tax levy is $676.2 million. Maintaining this level was possible in part by using funds from the additional property tax you set aside last year in anticipation of possible shortfalls in state aid as well as by using fund balance.[11]

Even with no increase in the property tax levy for the proposed budget, other economic pressures mean many homeowners are likely to see an increase in the amount they pay. The majority of residential homes in the county saw a drop in property value this year. However, commercial-industrial property also saw more significant value decreases, resulting in a shift in tax burden from commercial-industrial to residential properties. The result is that, even with a zero property tax increase, many homeowners whose values dropped from the 2010 to the 2011 assessment will still see an increase in the county portion of their property tax bill.[11]

Hennepin County Medical Center, due to state changes in its health care programs, was faced with increased financial and liquidity risks last year. Thanks in part to County Board action last year which anticipated those risks, as well as some positive legislative changes, HCMC remains able to accomplish its mission. As a Safety Net hospital, HCMC still provides healthcare to those citizens who don’t have insurance or the means to pay for service. The 2011 proposed budget includes $32.8 million for uncompensated care payments to HCMC, which is the same amount budgeted for 2010 support HCMC. There is still much uncertainty about the impact on HCMC of the revised state General Assistance Medical Care program and of the federal health care reform bill. As a result, the proposed budget includes $15.8 million for HCMC contingency. That money is set aside to be used as needed during the year.[11]

Bonded indebtedness continues to be one of the most significant cost drivers for the county. The property tax levy for debt service is proposed to increase $8.6 million -- from $62.5 million in 2010 to $71.1 million in 2011. It is also anticipated that the property tax for debt service will increase substantially for 2012 and future years. Last year the County Board adopted debt guidelines to try to limit debt service increases. Nevertheless, even if debt service growth is within the debt guidelines, it is projected that the debt service property tax levy will exceed $105 million by 2015, as debt is retired for past and future capital projects.[11]

Public Employee Pay

There are 420 employees making more than $100,000. Below are the top 10 earners:[12]

Year Name Agency Title Total Pay

Hennepin County public employee pay, by department:[13]

Department Employees Percent
full time
Median base
overtime pay
Total pay
ATTORNEY 422 70.1 69,936 15,318 0.1 24,662,600
BUDGET & FINANCE 36 88.9 69,073 0 0.0 2,154,650
COMMUNITY CORRECTIONS 1409 66.4 54,708 1,105,550 1.9 57,135,700
COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR 21 52.4 90,906 0 0.0 1,235,340
COUNTY ASSESSOR 46 89.1 60,913 0 0.0 2,415,570
COUNTY COMMISSIONERS 47 48.9 55,463 1,775 0.1 1,465,640
ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES 103 55.3 55,463 2,924 0.1 3,513,510
EXAMINER OF TITLES DIVISION 9 88.9 83,605 0 0.0 573,578
HOUSING, COMMUNITY WORKS & TRANSIT 43 90.7 67,956 1,402 0.1 2,586,860
HUMAN RESOURCES 109 62.4 58,704 3,072 0.1 4,155,920
HUMAN SERVICES AND PUBLIC HEALTH 3410 79.0 51,336 604,730 0.4 153,643,008
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY 266 90.2 78,191 85,215 0.5 16,712,200
INTERGOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS 2 100.0 82,938 0 0.0 163,256
INTERNAL AUDIT 11 100.0 66,997 0 0.0 770,084
LABOR RELATIONS 7 71.4 87,083 156 0.0 465,879
LAW LIBRARY 13 46.2 44,400 0 0.0 477,430
LIBRARY 1128 43.4 34,992 893 0.0 19,188,200
MEDICAL EXAMINER 61 41.0 39,312 62,043 3.5 1,798,320
METROPOLITAN HEALTH PLAN 251 73.7 58,704 185,070 1.7 10,715,600
MINNESOTA BALLPARK AUTHORITY 3 66.7 67,704 0 0.0 220,521
NORTHPOINT HEALTH AND WELLNESS CENTER 230 47.0 55,128 42,714 0.5 8,678,660
PROPERTY SERVICES 244 90.2 51,176 258,402 2.9 9,030,750
PUBLIC AFFAIRS 19 84.2 72,575 0 0.0 953,820
PUBLIC DEFENDER 114 84.2 106,488 0 0.0 10,034,400
PUBLIC WORKS ADMINISTRATION 15 100.0 55,128 968 0.1 917,774
PUBLIC WORKS MANAGEMENT SUPPORT 67 91.0 50,118 37,288 1.1 3,325,420
PURCHASING & CONTRACT SERVICES DIVISION 20 80.0 63,330 0 0.0 1,039,170
RESEARCH PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT 28 89.3 71,352 227 0.0 1,628,240
SHERIFF 897 90.1 54,288 3,185,310 7.3 43,788,700
TAXPAYER SERVICES 445 56.0 41,232 80,616 0.6 13,401,000
TRANSPORTATION 270 79.3 48,277 846,787 6.9 12,204,400
TOTAL PAY $409,056,000


Main article: Minnesota government sector lobbying

Hennepin County lists five government sector lobbying associations it belongs to:[7]

  • Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC)
  • National Association of Counties (NACo)
  • League of Minnesota Cities (LMC)
  • National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)
  • National Governors Association (NGA)

The county has spent the following on government sector lobbying in the state from 2005-2009. This includes both contracts with lobbyists and membership in government sector lobbying associations

Year Amount
2009 $303,943.00
2008 $353,933.00
2007 $334,307.00
2006 $320,583
2005 $306,369

Data obtained from Minnesota State Auditor Lobbying Reports

In addition to membership in lobbying associations, Hennepin County contracted with private lobbying firms, spending $405,000 between 2006-2010 on lobbying the federal government.[14]

Public Records

As of April 2011, there does not appear to be transparent information on how to file for public records. There is a webpage for the Public Records Division, but no information on resident rights and process for requesting public records.


Hennepin County offers a variety of property tax related information for and about constituent taxing districts. On their Taxing District webpage, cities, schools and other taxing districts can find information about tax base values, tax rates, and other data specific to their district. In addition, summary value and rate tables are available to anyone interested in property tax issues in Hennepin County.[8]

See also:

External links