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Summaries of Recent Evaluation Reports

2014 Reports:

  • MnDOT Selection of Pavement Surface for Road Rehabilitation The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) meets many recommended practices for selecting between bituminous and concrete pavement types in road rehabilitation projects, but it needs to make improvements. For example, MnDOT should quantify certain user costs (such as travelers’ time-delay costs associated with driving though work zones) and costs of MnDOT engineering and contract administration. MnDOT should compare those cost estimates, along with its analyses of pavement life-cycle costs, among each pavement alternative it considers. MnDOT should also change its alternate bidding process—used when projects are open to bidding from contractors in both bituminous and concrete industries—to make it cost-effective.

  • Agricultural Commodity Councils We found that the state’s 13 agricultural commodity councils are largely self-governing entities, subject to minimal oversight by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. We make several recommendations to enhance transparency and strengthen accountability. For example, we recommend that the Legislature (1) require commodity councils to have a Web site on which they regularly post financial, election, meeting, and contact information; (2) amend statutes regarding board conflicts of interest; (3) consider increasing oversight of the councils; and (4) determine if it wants to place limits on the use of checkoff-fee revenue and amend statutes accordingly.

  • Councils on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans, Black Minnesotans, Chicano/Latino People, and Indian Affairs Overall, we found little evidence that the four councils have been effective advisors or liaisons to state policy makers. Our report identifies six overarching problems: isolation from state policy making, lack of clear statutory purposes, inadequate identification of specific objectives and outcome measures, little substantive collaboration among the councils, untimely appointments and lack of attendance at council meetings, and poor communication. We discuss four options for the Legislature's consideration. These options range from maintaining the four councils but requiring certain operational improvements to eliminating them and creating advisory committees in select state agencies to address issues.

  • Health Services in State Correctional Facilities Inmates in state-run correctional facilities have considerable access to health care, but services should be more coordinated, consistent, and accountable. The Department of Corrections’ services to offenders with chronic illness or mental illness should be improved, and the department’s health services policies and practices should align more closely with professional standards. The department’s health services are not subject to external review, and stronger oversight mechanisms should be considered.

2013 Reports:

  • Sustainable Forest Incentive Program We found that the incentive payments made to landowners under the program are not tied to program goals, nor is there sufficient assurance that participants comply with program requirements. If the program is retained, we recommend that the Legislature tie the incentive payment amount to property taxes or program goals. We also recommend that the Legislature increase oversight and monitoring of participants and expand and clarify the program’s penalty options, among other recommendations.

  • MnDOT Noise Barriers We examined the activities and policies of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) regarding highway noise barriers. We recommended that MnDOT: (1) change how it assesses public support for noise barrier projects; (2) establish a pathway for communities outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area to become eligible for state-funded noise barriers; and (3) revise its method of prioritizing state-funded noise barrier projects. We also suggested MnDOT pay greater attention to maintenance needs and make its policy-making process more transparent.

  • State Employee Union Fair Share Fee Calculations We evaluated how federal and state legal requirements related to fair share have been implemented for Minnesota state employees. While we did not find major problems, there is little state ongoing oversight of union compliance with fair share requirements. We present three possible approaches if the Legislature determines that more oversight is needed.

  • Medical Assistance Payment Rates for Dental Services We examined Minnesota’s payment policies and rates for Medical Assistance dental services. We found that Minnesota uses numerous methods and types of payments to reimburse dental providers, and we found that payment policies are poorly coordinated and inconsistently implemented across Medical Assistance programs. We recommend that the state increase fee-for-service rates for dental services and give particular attention to rates for services provided to individuals with special needs. We also think that the Department of Human Services should more closely monitor recipient access to dental services, particularly for services provided through managed care organizations.

  • Special Education We found that school districts have had to divert revenues from general education aid and local operating levies to pay special education costs. We also found there are disincentives to controlling costs of special education. We recommend changing funding arrangements to reduce school district reliance on general education revenues to pay for special education. We also recommend that the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) identify feasible cost-control measures for school district use. Many Minnesota laws and rules exceed federal requirements on special education, and we recommend analyzing economic and educational impacts of potential changes before modifying state requirements. We recommend that MDE work to improve teachers’ understanding of its compliance-monitoring process and continue efforts to streamline the paperwork required of special education teachers.

  • State-Operated Human Services We examined facilities that the Department of Human Services (DHS) operates for individuals with mental illness, developmental disabilities, or chemical dependency. We recommend that the department continue to provide certain direct services to clients, but with a clearer mission and more effective resolution of ongoing management problems. Some facilities have had significant difficulty finding placements for individuals ready to be discharged, and DHS should develop or foster additional placement options. In addition, we recommend modification of civil commitment laws to ensure periodic judicial review of persons committed as mentally ill and dangerous or as developmentally disabled.

  • Law Enforcement’s Use of State Databases We examined law enforcement’s use of the Minnesota driver’s license database and the Comprehensive Incident-Based Reporting System. We found that inadequate controls and insufficient training have contributed to misuse of these databases. We recommend, among other things, that the Department of Public Safety: (1) take steps to increase awareness of the permissible uses of these databases; (2) strengthen access controls; and (3) consider increasing resources for monitoring use of driver’s license data. We also recommend that chief law enforcement officers consider increasing proactive reviews of their employees’ use of driver’s license data.

  • Conservation Easements We found a need for more oversight to ensure that conservation easements achieve their intended results. Among other things, we recommend the Legislature: (1) require state review and approval of conservation easements acquired with $500,000 or more of state money by private nonprofit organizations; (2) require easement holders to more closely monitor easements to ensure compliance with the easement agreements; and (3) require private nonprofit organizations that use state money to purchase conservation easements to be accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.

2012 Reports:

  • Preventive Maintenance for University of Minnesota Buildings We found that the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus has implemented a good preventive maintenance program for most University-owned buildings, and we recommend extending the program to cover all University-owned buildings on the campus. We also recommend that the University revise how it measures and reports on the timeliness of its preventive maintenance activities. Finally, because the University will need to upgrade its computerized information management system for preventive maintenance next year, it should look for a system that allows the University to incorporate a more predictive approach to building maintenance.

  • Consolidation of Local Governments We found that there may be opportunities for more consolidation among smaller local governments in Minnesota, particularly those with capital-intensive service or equipment needs. However, consolidation proposals need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine if consolidation would be appropriate. We recommend that the Legislature use requests to fund local capital projects as opportunities to encourage consolidation and collaboration. We also recommend that the Legislature provide grants to local governments to study consolidation possibilities. In addition, the Office of Administrative Hearings Municipal Boundary Adjustment Unit and counties should provide more information to local governments and citizens about how consolidations can be achieved.

  • Helping Communities Recover from Natural Disasters We evaluated how the state helps communities recover after they are hit by a flood, tornado, or other major natural disaster. We found that the state has a legal framework for providing disaster relief, but it applies only to certain disasters. Minnesota’s approach would benefit from clearer criteria for determining when and how much state aid is provided, better measures of the effectiveness of state recovery programs, and additional assistance to help individuals and local governments obtain recovery aid.

  • Child Protection Screening We found that child protection agencies in Minnesota vary in their screening decisions and practices, but their approaches are generally reasonable. Many factors appear to contribute to variation in child protection screening decisions, including vague statutory language, agency guidelines, and resources. The Minnesota Department of Human Services has provided screening-related assistance that child protection agencies value, but the department could do more. We make recommendations to the Legislature, department, and child protection agencies to clarify state policy, guide agency practice, and improve data on child protection screening.

  • Fiscal Notes Our evaluation reviewed the state's process for estimating the impact of proposed legislation. We found that the process would benefit from clearer statutory requirements, more detailed explanations in fiscal notes of their assumptions, and better communication between legislators and agencies.

2011 Reports:

  • The Legacy Amendment Our evaluation was a general assessment of how the 2008 Legacy Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution has been implemented. We identify four “ongoing concerns” related to: (1) complying with the amendment’s requirement that Legacy money not be used to substitute for “traditional” sources of funding; (2) limiting the use of Legacy money for administrative costs; (3) ensuring that conflict of interest concerns are adequately addressed; and (4) ensuring that the use of Legacy money will achieve the outcomes intended by the Legacy Amendment.

  • K-12 Online Learning Our report acknowledges that online learning can provide significant options and benefits for K-12 students, as well as for their families and schools. But our report also highlights concerns regarding course-completion rates, drop-out rates, and standardized test results for full-time online students. In addition, we recommend ways for the Minnesota Department of Education to be more timely and strategic in its approach to overseeing online schools.

  • Civil Commitment of Sex Offenders We found that the state’s increased use of civil commitment for certain sex offenders has resulted in a significant growth in costs. We also found variations across the state in the use of civil commitment. We recommend improvements to the program used to treat civilly committed sex offenders and suggest the state consider supplementing its current approach to civil commitment of sex offenders with some less costly alternatives.

  • Environmental Review and Permitting We found that environmental reviews in Minnesota do not always meet important objectives and state agencies lack adequate data to measure the timeliness of their environmental reviews and priority permits.  We recommend an expanded role for the Environmental Quality Board to improve the environmental review process, and we call for better data to measure the timeliness of environmental reviews and priority permits.
  • Medical Nonemergency Transportation We found Minnesota's administrative structure for the medical nonemergency transportation program duplicative and confusing and state oversight weak. In addition to changes to improve accountability, we recommend that the Legislature require the Department of Human Services to develop a proposal to create a single administrative structure for the medical nonemergency transportation program.

  • Governance of Transit in the Twin Cities Region We found that the region's governance structure for transit is complex and fragmented, with overlapping responsibilities among numerous organizations. We recommend that reform start by changing the membership of the Metropolitan Council to include a mix of elected officials from the region and members appointed by the Governor.

2010 Reports:

  • Renewable Energy Development Fund We found that the allocation of money from the fund has become fragmented, resulting in concerns with administration and oversight of projects paid for by the fund. We recommend changes to clarify the fund's purpose, strengthen accountability, and improve the fund's impact.

  • Public Libraries We found that Minnesota uses a complex, multilayered approach to deliver public library services, but local governments are primarily responsible for funding and administration. We also found wide variations in what local governments contribute financially to provide library services. We recommend a way to simplify the delivery structure but leave the funding disparity issue to local elected officials to resolve.

  • Natural Resource Land Our evaluation found that, while its long-range plans propose significant future land acquisitions, the Department of Natural Resources appears to lack adequate resources to manage and maintain its current land holdings. The report recommends that the department prepare long-range budget plans for the Legislature that compare the ongoing land management needs to available funding. These analyses will help the Legislature assess the financial feasibility of acquiring additional land.

  • Workforce Programs Our evaluation found that participants in some of Minnesota’s workforce programs have experienced positive outcomes. But the fragmented administration and funding of the workforce system have weakened accountability and produced gaps in service. Changes are needed to better integrate programs, close service gaps, and provide stronger oversight.

  • Public Defender System Our evaluation found that high workloads for public defenders have created significant challenges for Minnesota´s criminal justice system. While there are no easy options to reduce stress on the public defender system at this time, we recommend actions to improve performance management, long-range planning, and standards for appointing public defenders.

  • MnSCU System Office Our evaluation concluded that it is reasonable for MnSCU to have a sizable “system office” to perform various governance, oversight, and support functions. However, the office's performance has been mixed, and it should be scrutinized more closely by MnSCU leaders.

  • Alternative Education Programs We found that elementary and middle school students who attend “extended-time” alternative education programs (such as before- or after-school programs or summer school) showed higher-than-expected growth on two standardized assessments when compared with other students and national norms. However, the Minnesota Department of Education has limited which school districts may provide these programs. We recommend that the Legislature allow all school districts to provide these alternative education programs. We also make several other recommendations to improve the oversight of alternative education programs.

2009 Reports:

  • E-Verify Our evaluation found that the Governor’s 2008 executive order mandating the use of E-Verify—an electronic employment eligibility verification system—by some Minnesota employers has only been implemented in part. There are weaknesses in E-Verify that the federal government needs to address, but we recommend state government actions to assist Minnesota businesses and employees affected by the executive order.
  • Capitol Complex Security Our evaluation concluded that Minnesota has not taken sufficient steps to protect the Capitol and surrounding state buildings from possible security threats. The report makes several recommendations, including a stronger law enforcement presence in the Capitol Complex and an ongoing committee to help set security priorities.

  • Biofuel Policies and Programs Our evaluation found that traditional biofuels like corn-based ethanol serve a useful purpose, but are limited in their ability to replace petroleum-based fuels. We also found that the environmental impacts of corn-based ethanol are complicated and unclear. We make several recommendations for changes in the subsidy programs the state provides to biofuel producers.

  • MnSCU Occupational Programs Our evaluation found that MnSCU´s two-year colleges generally do a good job of responding to economic conditions and workforce needs. But they do not consistently assess employment opportunities for graduates of their occupational programs or systematically provide students with information about future job prospects.

  • Oversight of Workers' Compensation Our evaluation found that Minnesota’s workers’ compensation system works well for many injured workers. But for some, the system fails to meet its goals of timely medical recovery and return to work. We make several recommendations to improve program oversight and accountability.

  • MINNCOR Industries Our evaluation found that MINNCOR has generally done a good job in a difficult environment providing work opportunities for inmates and generating enough revenue to cover its costs. However, we make several recommendations for improvement.

  • Q Comp: Quality Compensation for Teachers Our evaluation found that the Minnesota Department of Education has not been consistent in its administration of Q Comp.  It has held different applicants to different standards and has not provided regular oversight of all participants.  We make several recommendations to improve the program’s administration.

  • Personal Care Assistance Our evaluation found that personal care assistance services have been subject to minimal state regulation and oversight, even though expenditures have been growing significantly and the program is vulnerable to fraud and abuse. We make several recommendations to improve the program’s administration and accountability.

2008 Reports:

  • Charter Schools We evaluated the performance, oversight, and accountability of charter schools. We found that, in general, charter schools do not perform as well as district schools; however, after accounting for relevant demographic factors and student mobility rates, the differences in student performance were minimal. Additionally, we found that charter school oversight responsibilities are not clear, leading to duplication and gaps in oversight. We recommend the Legislature clarify the roles of the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and sponsors (organizations that authorize, monitor, and evaluate charter schools) and that MDE implement standards for sponsors. We also recommend that the Legislature strengthen conflict of interest laws for charter school boards.

  • State Highways and Bridges We examined recent trends in the condition of state highways and bridges and evaluated how the Minnesota Department of Transportation has responded. We found that highway surfaces have deteriorated, construction costs have escalated rapidly, and the department has not allocated sufficient resources to maintenance and preservation.

  • Financial Management of Health Care Programs Our evaluation concluded that Minnesota should continue to administer state health care programs for low-income people through a combination of private and public managed care organizations, as well as fee-for-service care. But the report also recommends a need for greater scrutiny of costs and health outcomes under these approaches.

  • JOBZ Program We evaluated JOBZ and found the program has helped to create some jobs. However, we also found significant problems with the program's focus and administration, resulting in unnecessary and ineffective use of tax subsidies in some cases. We recommend changes that would focus the program and improve its administration.

  • “Green Acres” and Agricultural Land Preservation Programs Minnesota’s “Green Acres” program reduces property taxes for certain farmland but does not effectively preserve agricultural land from development. We recommend that the Legislature reconsider who and what types of land should benefit. The state’s two programs for preserving agricultural land can help shape development and slow its pace, but they are not adequate to preserve farmland for the long term.

  • School District Student Transportation We evaluated the management and oversight of student transportation in Minnesota and found that improvements are needed. We found deficiencies in the way the Department of Public Safety (DPS) manages its school bus safety responsibilities. Additionally, some school districts do not provide sufficient oversight of their school bus drivers or private student transportation carriers. We recommend the Legislature increase the qualifications required for drivers of certain vehicles, DPS improve its management of student transportation safety, and school districts follow student transportation best practices.

  • County Veterans Service Offices Our evaluation examined the performance of county veterans service offices. We found the current system is generally working well, but state oversight needs improvement. We recommend legislative changes that give the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs more tools to better supervise the county offices.

2007 Reports:

  • Misclassification of Employees as Independent Contractors We assessed the extent to which Minnesota employers have misclassified employees as independent contractors, and evaluated the adequacy of the state’s enforcement of laws and rules related to classification. We found that misclassification is a problem in Minnesota, and the state should establish a coordinated approach to address it.

  • Follow-up Review: MinnesotaCare Eligibility Determination This follow-up to OLA’s 2003 report on MinnesotaCare assessed actions by the Minnesota Department of Human Services to address problems with the accuracy of MinnesotaCare eligibility determinations. In spite of efforts to improve, the follow-up review found that serious problems with accuracy persist. A key solution to these problems—an automated eligibility system called "HealthMatch"—holds promise but is significantly behind schedule. The report recommends that the department take interim actions to improve eligibility determination while waiting for HealthMatch to be implemented.

  • Prevailing Wages This report evaluates the administration and enforcement of Minnesota’s prevailing wage law. We found that enforcement is inadequate and recommend changes in state law and funding to correct enforcement deficiencies. We also recommend improvements in the process used by the Department of Labor and Industry to set prevailing wage rates.

  • Human Services Administration This report evaluates the administration of human services by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and county agencies. The efficiency and effectiveness of service implementation varies around the state, and the report offers recommendations to improve consistency and accountability. It also recommends that more counties jointly administer human services.

  • Watershed Management We evaluated how Minnesota manages its watersheds and found a complex system of multiple local, state, and federal entities with a mixed record of performance at the local level and inadequate oversight from the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR). We recommend that the Legislature change BWSR’s governing structure to help ensure it acts in the overall best interests of the state.

  • Postemployment Benefits for Public Employees We evaluated Minnesota’s public pensions and other postemployment benefits, such as health care insurance. We recommend legislative changes to correct pension plan deficits and help government entities meet their other postemployment benefit obligations.

  • Pensions for Volunteer Firefighters This report looks at how well Minnesota's decentralized system for administering volunteer firefighter pensions is working.

  • State Grants to Nonprofit Organizations We evaluated how state agencies award and administer grants to nonprofit organizations and found policies and practices that were inconsistent and inadequate to ensure accountability. We recommend practices agencies should follow and oversight by a state office of grants management.

2006 Reports:

  • Economic Impact of Immigrants This report reviews previous research regarding the economic impact of immigration.

  • Public Health Care Eligibility Determination for Noncitizens This report examines the extent to which counties correctly determine public health care eligibility for noncitizens.

  • Liquor Regulation This report examines how Minnesota's liquor laws affect liquor prices and how changes in these laws would affect consumers, existing stores, and alcohol abuse.

  • Pesticide Regulation This report evaluates how well the Minnesota Department of Agriculture regulates pesticides and monitors their use and effects.

  • Tax Compliance This report examines how well the Minnesota Department of Revenue uses its authority and resources to collect income and sales and use taxes.

  • Substance Abuse Treatment This report examines the availability and outcomes of substance abuse treatment in community-based and prison-based settings.

  • Child Support Enforcement This report examines how cost-effectively and consistently child support enforcement services are delivered in Minnesota.

2005 Reports:

  • School District Integration Revenue This report is about how school districts that receive integration revenue use the money and how the program could be improved.

  • Nursing Home Inspections This report recommends additional steps the Minnesota Department of Health can take to ensure that nursing home inspections are fair, consistent, and useful.

  • Workforce Development Services This report recommends clarifications to responsibilities for governing workforce development services and improved coordination among programs providing services.

  • Energy Conservation Improvement Program This report assesses the cost effectiveness of the Conservation Improvement Program and recommends improvements in program operation.

  • Community Supervision of Sex Offenders This report recommends improvements in supervision, treatment, and housing for sex offenders living in Minnesota communities.

  • Gambling Regulation and Oversight This report discusses ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Minnesota's four gambling regulatory agencies.

  • Child Care Reimbursement Rates This report recommends changes in some of the methods used by the Department of Human Services to set maximum reimbursement rates for the Child Care Assistance Program.

2004 Reports:

2003 Reports:

2002 Reports:

  • Managing Local Government Computer Systems (02-09) This report discusses best practices for managing computer systems for local governments, including reliance on vendors, intergovernmental collaborations, and/or in-house staff.

  • Local E-Government (02-08) This report identifies best practices for local governments, including cities, counties, and school districts, that deliver e-government services to citizens via the Internet.

  • Teacher Recruitment and Retention: Summary of Major Studies (02-07) This document summarizes existing research by others, emphasizing the relatively high rate of teacher attrition in Minnesota and the difficulty most districts have in hiring and retaining some types of teachers.

  • State Employee Health Insurance (02-06) This report evaluates the structure and design of the new "Minnesota Advantage" health plan for state employees and concludes that it incorporates many positive cost saving strategies, although it is uncertain how much money it will actually save.

  • Economic Status of Welfare Recipients (02-05) This report examines a wide range of cash and non-cash government assistance programs, concluding that the total package provides substantial support for low-income families while offering important incentives for recipients to become more self-sufficient.

  • Financing Unemployment Insurance (02-04) This report questions the adequacy of Minnesota's Unemployment Insurance Fund and says that reforms are needed to avoid borrowing from the federal government during a recession.

  • Water Quality: Permitting and Compliance Monitoring (02-03) This report finds that many major facilities that discharge wastewater in Minnesota are operating with expired permits and that the Pollution Control Agency has a growing backlog of permits.

  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Funding (02-02) This report examines the current mix of funding sources for the MPCA, analyzes alternative strategies open to policy makers, and looks at how well MPCA is addressing emerging issues dealing with air and water pollution.

  • Recycling and Waste Reduction (02-01) This report finds that county recycling programs, funded in part by the state, are mostly successful, but concludes that much of what Minnesotans are still throwing away could be diverted from the waste stream.

2001 Reports:

  • State Archaeologist (01-06) This report examines the Office of the State Archaeologist, focusing particularly on how it is funded, how it relates to the Indian Affairs Council, and what role it plays in identifying human burial sites.

  • Chronic Offenders (01-05) This report presents statistical information on chronic offenders in Minnesota, including data on sentencing practices and the costs and benefits of incarcerating repeat offenders.

  • Insurance for Behavioral Health (01-04) This report analyzes trends in services for behavioral health (mental health and chemical dependency) and the extent to which the costs for services are being shifted from private to public payers.

  • Affordable Housing (01-03) This report presents numerous statistical measures of the need for affordable housing in Minnesota and identifies key factors, such as the cost of land and regulatory policies, that may limit the production of new affordable housing.

  • District Courts (01-02) This report finds that Minnesota district courts generally process cases in a timely manner, but notes that time-consuming cases are growing faster than the number of judges, raising concerns among judges and attorneys. The report recommends improvements in the way the state estimates the need for judge positions.

  • Early Childhood Education Programs (01-01) This report describes and analyzes Minnesota's Head Start, School Readiness, and ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education) programs and calls for a review of fund allocation methods and better program oversight.

2000 Reports:

  • The MnSCU Merger (00-07) The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) has made significant progress in merging the previously separate state universities, community colleges, and technical colleges, but more needs to be done.

  • Preventive Maintenance for Local Government Buildings: A Best Practices Review (00-06) This report describes and analyzes how school districts, cities, and counties conduct preventive maintenance of their buildings. It also identifies seven major "best practices" that jurisdictions can adopt to improve their preventive maintenance, and includes numerous specific examples that show how local governments are successfully implementing the best practices.

  • State Employee Compensation (00-05) This report compares Minnesota state employee compensation to the salary and benefits offered by other government and private employers. It shows that state pay is higher on average largely because most state employees work in white collar jobs. The report also examines state recruitment and retention problems.

  • School District Finances (00-04) This report examines school district financial trends and shows that school district financial conditions in Minnesota generally improved during the 1990s. The report looks at reasons why some individual school districts nevertheless have financial problems.

  • Welfare Reform (00-03) This report examines the progress Minnesota has made during the past few years under its new welfare program--the Minnesota Family Investment Program. The report looks at changes in the size and composition of the caseload, analyzes employment trends, and provides the opinions of local officials about welfare- related policy issues.

  • State Park Management (00-02) This report examines the adequacy of park facility maintenance, analyzes park financing issues, and evaluates how well the Department of Natural Resources balances its goals of providing resource preservation and recreation. The report concludes that parks are generally well managed, given the resources available to do the job.

  • State Mandates on Local Governments (00-01) This report describes the various types of state mandates that affect local governments, identifies the mandates most nettlesome to local governments, and examines tools for mitigating the adverse affects of mandates.

1999 Reports:

  • Fire Services, A Best Practices Review (99-07) This report describes and analyzes services delivered by fire departments in Minnesota and identifies seven major actions that local fire departments can take to improve services. It also identifies numerous specific best practices that show specifically how fire departments are successfully implementing the seven major actions.

  • Counties’ Use of Administrative Penalties for Solid and Hazardous Waste Violations (99-06) This study found that seven Minnesota counties have adopted administrative penalty powers for solid and hazardous waste violations and that only two penalties have been issued so far. The report recommends a continuance of county authority to issue penalty orders.

  • Occupational Regulation (99-05) This report examines Minnesota’s system of occupational regulation with particular attention paid to the state’s criteria for enacting new regulation, the effectiveness of regulation, and the adequacy of state oversight of occupational regulation. The report also makes some suggestions for legislative review of the nearly 200 occupations that are currently licensed, certified, or otherwise regulated by the state.

  • Animal Feedlot Regulation (99-04) This report evaluates the performance of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in permitting, inspecting, and overseeing animal feedlots. Minnesota has up to 45,000 feedlots, many of which pose threats to water and air quality. The report faults the agency for inconsistent permit processing, too few site visits, outdated rules, inconsistent enforcement activities, and inadequate oversight of county feedlot programs.

  • Metropolitan Mosquito Control District (99-03) This report evaluates the performance of the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District, a seven-county agency that controls nuisance and disease-bearing mosquitoes and biting flies. The report presents evidence that the chemicals used by the District are generally safe and reasonably effective. Some of the agency's treatment policies and its rights to treat publicly owned natural resource land, however, need to be clarified or reconsidered.

  • Juvenile Out-of-Home Placement (99-02) This report examines Minnesota's locally-administered juvenile out-of-home placement system. It documents the reasons for placements and assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the system. The report concludes that there is a more pressing need in Minnesota for additional non-residential services compared with residential services. The report recommends county screening teams, court-determined placement goals, and agency reporting on placement outcomes.

  • State Building Code (99-01) This report evaluates the way Minnesota promulgates and enforces the state building code and recommends changes in the administration of the code. Offering a range of options to improve the building code's administration and its coordination with the fire code, the report recommends that building and fire officials should jointly approve building permits and proposed deviations from the overlapping portions of their codes as well as all certificates of occupancy.

1998 Reports:

  • Minnesota State High School League (98-07) This report examines the internal management and rulemaking activities of the high school league. It concludes that many problems identified in earlier evaluations have been addressed by the League or by the Legislature which, over the years, has modified the framework within which the League operates. The report makes recommendations relating to competitive bidding, the League's ombudspersons, and oversight of the League by the state Department of Children, Families, and Learning.

  • 9-1-1 Dispatching (98-06) This report describes and analyzes 9-1-1 emergency dispatching in Minnesota and identifies seven major actions that can be taken by local service providers to improve services. It also identifies numerous specific best practices that show how Minnesota cities and counties are successfully implementing the seven major actions.

  • School Trust Land (98-05)This report examines the performance of the Department of Natural Resources in managing school trust land that was granted to the state by the federal government in the 19th Century for the "benefit of schools." Income from the land is invested and the proceeds are distributed to schools. The performance of the State Board of Investment is also examined.

  • State Building Maintenance (98-04)This report presents information on the condition of buildings owned by the state, including the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, and examines the adequacy of building maintenance policies and procedures.

  • Transit Services (98-03) This report evaluates the performance of Twin Cities and outstate transit services, comparing spending, ridership, and other factors to transit in other states and metro areas. It also examines the adequacy of long-range transit planning by the Metropolitan Council and Mn/DOT.

  • Remedial Education (98-02)This report finds that Minnesota schools use a variety of remedial education methods, but few of proven effectiveness. It also recommends targeting funds to students who need remediation instead of allocating money based solely on measures of poverty.

  • Child Protective Services (98-01) This study documents variations in Minnesota's county-administered system for handling allegations of child abuse. The study calls for clearer state standards for how to handle allegations of maltreatment and recommends steps to make the system more open and accountable.

1997 Reports:

  • Non-Felony Prosecution (97-07) This report identifies several successful techniques for delivering prosecution services for misdemeanor offences. Based on surveys and interviews with city and county prosecutors' offices, it highlights methods that might be adopted in multiple jurisdictions.

  • Highway Spending (97-06) This report examines the current condition of Minnesota's trunk highway system, including bridges, and analyzes the cost of preserving the quality of the system in the future. Generally, the report concludes that current highway and bridge quality is good, but that the cost of preserving the quality of the system will probably increase.

  • Statewide Systems Project (97-05) This report analyzes the costs and benefits of Minnesota's Statewide Systems Project, a computer development project that replaced existing accounting and procurement systems and created a new payroll and personnel system for state government. The project was "moderately successful" but costs were 50 percent higher than expected and many expected benefits have not materialized.

  • Ethanol Programs (97-04) This report evaluates the costs and benefits of Minnesota's ethanol programs. The programs, which subsidize production and require the use of ethanol in gasoline, will cost about $67 million in government subsidies and higher gasoline prices to consumers annually. The net economic benefits to the state each year are between $109 and $260 million.

  • Special Education (97-03) This study examines the costs of special education services in Minnesota, describes spending trends over the past 20 years, analyzes alternatives for saving money, and examines the state and federal regulatory framework for special education.

  • Nursing Home Rates in the Upper Midwest (97-02) This report compares the rates charged to nursing home residents in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Dakotas. It examines the reasons that Minnesota's rates are 15 to 30 percent higher than the other states, attributing most of the difference to higher levels of nursing care and higher nursing salaries in Minnesota.

  • Recidivism of Adult Felons (97-01) This study presents three-year rates of recidivism for adult felons released from prison or placed on probation in 1992. It also examines recidivism for various subgroups of felons, including those who have participated in prison programs.

1996 Reports:

  • Property Assessments: Structure and Appeals (96-07). This report identifies innovative practices and proven methods of organizing property assessment services and assessment appeals processes. The report includes numerous specific examples of techniques used by county and local jurisdictions around Minnesota.

  • Tax Increment Financing (96-06). This study found that the Legislature's recent reforms to tax increment financing have succeeded in eliminating most previously identified misuses.

  • Postsecondary Enrollment Options Program (96-05). This evaluation found that the PSEO program, under which high school students may take college courses at state expense, is working well and is popular among students, parents, and most administrators. The program creates problems for some high schools, however, in their efforts to plan and schedule their own classes.

  • State Grant and Loan Programs for Businesses (96-04). This evaluation found that median wage levels of jobs created by the Economy Recovery Fund were only $7.20 over the last four years. It also criticizes the Department of Trade and Economic Development for giving public assistance to businesses that could have carried on their expansion or relocation projects without state aid.

  • Trends in State and Local Spending (96-03). This is an analysis of trends in Minnesota state and local spending over the last 35 years, with an emphasis on education, human services, transportation, public safety, and environment and natural resources. The study shows that Minnesota trends are similar to national trends, but that Minnesota has consistently spent more per capita than the national average in all areas except public safety and transit.

  • Department of Human Rights (96-02). This evaluation documents a growing backlog of cases alleging discrimination. It also examines how well the department reviews and monitors affirmative action plans of companies which do business with the state.

  • Funding for Probation Services (96-01). This study describes how probation services are funded and delivered by Minnesota counties and the Department of Corrections. It also recommends options for a new state funding formula.

1995 Reports:

1994 Reports:

  • Game and Fish Fund: Special Stamps and Surcharges (Update) (94-01)This report shows that the Department of Natural Resources has not followed all statutory requirements in managing certain Game and Fish Fund revenues.

  • Performance Budgeting (94-02) This study analyzes how performance budgeting has been implemented in Minnesota and finds that it has had a limited impact on decision making so far.

  • Psychopathic Personality Commitment Law (94-03) This report details problems in the use of this law to commit high risk sex offenders to the state security hospital after a term in prision.

  • Higher Education Tuition and State Grants (94-04) This report finds that tuition has risen mainly because of a policy shift by the state, resulting in relatively less reliance on state appropriations and more on tuition revenues. It also finds that the state grant program is working essentially as envisioned by the Legislature.

  • Motor Vehicle Deputy Registrars (94-05) This study finds that most deputy registrars provide good customer service, but provisions of state law protect private deputies from competitive forces, preventing the state from realizing the full potential of privatization.

  • Minnesota Supercomputer Center (94-06) In this report we conclude that the U. of Minnesota is receiving adequate value from MSCI, a private for-profit supercomputing company, and that the University is not subsidizing MSCI's commercial customers.

  • Sex Offender Treatment Programs (94-07) This report examines the implementation and effectiveness of treatment programs for sex offenders in state and private facilities. Most offenders receive some kind of treatment, but almost half fail to complete it.
More Information

Office of the Legislative Auditor ♦ Room 140, 658 Cedar St., St. Paul, MN 55155