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County approves 2004 budget


Fri, Sep 12th, 2003
Posted in Features

Department heads have really sharpened their pencils and come through", praised Policy Coordinator Karen Brown as the county board reviewed new figures submitted from county departments on Tuesday. Brown had informed offices, after last weeks meeting, that the commissioners had slated an additional 10% cut on already tested budgets to help rid the county of an $800,000 shortfall. Approximately $600,000 was cut which brought the county levy down to 10.68%, a far cry from the earlier 26% figure. An additional $80,000 from Social Services and another $50,000 from SWCD in cuts will push the levy down to just under 9%. The board noted that most of the surrounding counties are looking at levies of around 10%. Expenditures for 2004 are penned in at $19,754,761, down by $1.1 million from the year before. Revenues are projected at $19,826,074, with the 2004 levy being set at $6,185,868. The 2004 levy limit is $4,817,375, but there are "special" levies through state mandates that leads to the higher figure.County Auditor/Treasurer Philip Burkholder presented the countys budget as it stood on August 31. It outlined debts and credits for the many categories of the countys budget. He noted a cut of $162,228 in HACA funds, monies the state used to give to buy down property taxes. Overall, though, Burkholder felt the county had done well in bringing numbers into perspective. The use of reserves was also questioned. Commissioners Marc Prestby and Randy Dahl didnt like the idea of tapping into reserves. Commissioner Duane Bakke stated the state is pushing counties to use it. The state does require that counties maintain daily operating funds in reserve if the doors suddenly had to close. The county has, in the past, used reserves, but then has been able to build it back up. Bakke gave credit for this to the departments that come in at or under their budgets, rather than having to borrow from the reserves. The county board opted to tap into $208,000 in reserves as well as $65,000 in carry over funds.Following the Truth in Taxation hearings in December, the board can reduce the levy and budget further, however, by state law, they cannot increase it.Early Retirement OfferThe board reviewed a resolution, which outlined criteria for early retirement.The county offers to continue providing the current employee health insurance benefit up to a capped $366.52 per month. This benefit will continue unless employee is enrolled as an employee through another employer.Have been an employee of the county for at least 15 years by Dec. 31, 2003.Is eligible for a retirement annuity from a public retirement plan such as PERA.Is less than 65 by Dec. 31, 2003. Must notify County Coord-inator Karen Brown of acceptance by Dec. 31, 2003 and retire by Jan. 31, 2004. Commissioner Bakke questioned whether the board was going through all this effort for just a few and if it was warranted. The vote came in 4 to 1 to approve the early retirement package, with Bakke voting "nay".Other businessThe board was once again faced with a request for approval on an access permit for Ruth A. Cranley for a new driveway to building site to CSAH #25, Section 19, Rushford Village. Commissioner Dahl and Highway Engineer John Grindeland were to drive to the site and review the situation. Although Grindeland was not available, Dahl looked over the proposed access and discussed the subject with the Rushford Village mayor. The village would like to put the topic on hold. The main problem with the site is that it is an extremely steep grade that would not allow emergency vehicles to ascend unless there was considerable work done to the existing field road. The village would want the driveway to meet township standards, which could be extremely costly to the property owner. There was a brief discussion on trying to obtain an easement to the property from the topside. This would involve driving over another owners farm, following the woods and fence line for about half a mile. Dahl pointed out that a field road already exists off the highway. The engineer had recommended putting in an 18" culvert. After some deliberation, the access permit was approved. The board reminded Cranley that she would still have to obtain approval from the village for the driveway and building permit. The access permit only gives her a 12 right-of-way off the highway.The countys airport will be getting a face lift with a 90% of the costs being covered by the federal government. The $348,900 project will allow for more taxiway space as the airports use continues to rise. There have been some safety concerns over the crunched runway space.Construction administration of the taxiway project will run $59,482. A maximum of 14 acres, currently in beans, will be used to reconstruct the site. The renter of the bean field will be offered $233 per acre as the project must get under way. Commissioner Dahl, who has been working closely with the taxiway project, informed board members the bulldozer is out there ready to go.Accepted the resignation of Tina Peter, Accounting Technician, effective Sept. 19. The board chose to wait on advertising the position as Commissioner Bakke stated he would like to see the Driver License Division put out to the private sector. This would save some dollars for the county. Commissioner Dahl was also in favor of this suggestion.Approved an agreement with the state for a federal equipment grant for municipal emergency management units, not to exceed $20,613 with no matching dollars from county.Pay requests for several courthouse construction bills were approved. Approved final right-of-way plat for SAP #23-617-13 (Ridge Road).

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