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County 2014 budget trimming continues

Fri, Sep 6th, 2013
Posted in All Government

The Fillmore County Board’s goal is to get the levy increase for 2014 to zero. County coordinator Karen Brown at the board’s September 3 meeting announced a proposed budget increase of about $178,000 or 2.11 percent after the recommend adjustments by the board over the past several weeks were made. These numbers included additional cuts or added revenues from most department heads.

Towards the end of the meeting, county engineer Ron Gregg added significant additional budget reductions from his department totaling $98,039. The highway department savings included postponing the replacement of the department’s 2007 Backhoe for one more year.

Brown noted that some departments reported that they didn’t know where they could cut further or find more revenue.

Commissioner Duane Bakke maintained that even with a zero percent increase in the levy, some property owners will still see a tax increase while others will see a decrease.

Brown said in her interpretation of the state law, the debt load would be included in the levy limit. Last year the county used $320,000 of fund balance to keep the levy increase lower. Bakke added that if fund balance is used to allow the levy increase to be zero, it would be much less than that which has been used in recent years.

Auditor/treasurer Shirl Boelter insisted all the department heads are being thrifty. We have been trying to cut all along. Brown recommended they take one final look and do some research on the state mandate to see if it is being interpreted correctly.

Chairman Randy Dahl asked about the rate of inflation. Brown noted the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was up 1.1 percent in April. He said, “We don’t want to tax taxpayers one more cent than necessary,” but that they should be building reserves for needed improvements to the county jail. He suggested they should set the levy at the rate of inflation. The consensus of the rest of the board was to keep it at zero.

Bakke said they should give Brown the flexibility to use up to $178,000 from the fund balance to keep the levy at zero. This statement was made prior to Ron Gregg’s savings of about $98,000.

Dahl said he was hearing that zero percent was the desired levy increase. He asked about the 1.5 percent wage increase figured into every department’s budget for non union employees. After some discussion there was general agreement to give non union employees the same 1.5 percent increase that union employees will receive.

Fillmore County offers a $40 per diem for people serving on committees, which is the lowest among area counties that use the per diem for compensation. Commissioner Marc Prestby noted that it has become harder and harder to find people willing to commit to serve on committees. Dahl said that many are professional people and they often are committing a half a day of their time. The board directed Karen Brown to figure a $5 increase to the per diem in the budget which would be approximately a $3,000 increase in the total amount spent on per diems per year.

Other Business In Brief

•Mary Dunphy, during the citizen input portion of the meeting, expressed her concerns about the lack of highway guard rails on CSAH 25 south of Peterson, Minn. near the fish hatchery. She said this big hill with a deep ditch along the road is dangerous, adding there should be guard rails to protect citizens traveling on the road especially in the winter time. Dahl agreed the section of road could be a good candidate for barriers.

Bakke noted that CSAH 25 is a state aid highway and that there are guidelines as to whether barriers are to be installed or not. Dahl said they will refer her concern to the Highway Committee and have the county engineer look at it.

•Boelter reported that the 2012 audit was completed. The board approved the publishing of the 2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

•The purchase of a ditching bucket for the highway department’s excavator was approved from Ziegler Cat at a total cost of $6,946.88. Gregg noted the attachment increases the excavator functions, including salvaging gravel out of ditches.

Additional office equipment for the Highway Administrative Office was approved at a cost of $1,057.34 from Beckley’s Office Products.

•An access permit was approved for Donald and Penelope Redalen to CASH 21, Section 3, Carrolton Township. The new access on the south side of the property will provide access to tillable land that is currently being accessed through the ditch.

•The hire of Michele Gatzke RN was approved for Community Services-Public Health effective September 27. It was noted that she had 17 years of in home nursing experience.

Merit System Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action Guidelines for Community Services-Social Services were adopted. Kristina Kohn, Human Resources, explained that nothing in the guidelines was in conflict with current policy.

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