County starts sorting out 2013 budgetThe first draft of Goodhue County’s 2013 budget showed a levy increase of 4.54 percent over last year, but staff and commissioners have already started working to bring the number much lower.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
The first draft of Goodhue County’s 2013 budget showed a levy increase of 4.54 percent over last year, but staff and commissioners have already started working to bring the number much lower.
“A 4.54 percent levy increase isn’t going to happen,” Commissioner Jim Bryant said. “Way too high.”
At a budget workshop Thursday afternoon, commissioners tried to come up with ways to cut expenditures and increase revenue. By the end of the meeting two hours later, the levy increase of $1,211,243 was diminished to less than $1,100,000 or about 3.95 percent, which was still too high for some.
“It’s got to be under 2 (percent),” Bryant said.
Historically, the levy increase hasn’t been above 2 percent since 2009 when it reached as high as 3.66. Last year’s levy increased 1.91 percent from 2011.
In an effort to get the 2013 levy prediction lower, commissioners took a look at spending within the Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office. The 2013 draft budget included 12 squad cars scheduled for replacement. Sheriff Scott McNurlin said the number is so high because the board chose in past years to push some cars out further past their scheduled replacement.
“This is the scenario we’ve been trying to avoid,” McNurlin said.
Commissioners opted to reduce the number of vehicle replacements from 12 to nine, saving $90,000.
County staff and board members also considered the Public Works Department as an area to save money.
County Attorney Steve Betcher suggested asking for more money from the state for the Highway 52 and County Road 9 project.
“It just seems to me there has to be a re-doubling of that effort,” Betcher said.
Several meetings have been held regarding plans for the project, which aims to make the dangerous intersection safer.
“And they just didn’t result in funding to fix the problem the way it should get fixed,” the county attorney added.
While Thursday’s meeting was largely spent trying to decrease spending, a couple of areas saw increased spending, one being outside agencies.
SEMCAC used to be funded through Health and Human Services, but the department stopped when it was instructed to eliminate all non-mandated services. Since then, SEMCAC has received no county funding.
The agency serves 10 southeastern Minnesota counties in addition to Goodhue. Those counties each provide varying amounts of funding to SEMCAC.
“It’s pretty embarrassing that we’re the only ones not contributing to that,” Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel said.
The draft budget was adjusted to include $2,500 for SEMCAC.
There was also talk of increasing the funding for the Economic Development Authority’s Initiative Fund, which promotes cities within the county. The agency was given $500 last year.
“I don’t think $1,000 is out of line at all,” Rechtzigel said, suggesting a 100 percent increase.
“For every dollar we spend there we get it back. That’s my opinion,” Chair Richard Samuelson agreed.
A majority of commissioners determined $500 was sufficient and the amount remained the same as 2012.
With just a few areas discussed so far, the county commissioners will come together again Sept. 4 to establish their preliminary levy. After that point, the levy can continue to be decreased but may not be increased.
A public meeting is scheduled for Sept. 6 to allow citizens to give input on the proposed levy.