Nobles County OK's 3.9 percent levy increase
WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County Commissioners approved a 3.9 percent levy increase for 2009 and set the county's annual budget at $25,482,913 during its Tuesday morning meeting.
The budget includes more than $1 million in program aid, which County Administrator Mel Ruppert said is in question considering the state's economic woes.
A more immediate concern, however, is that the county may not receive its $580,000 allotment of County Program Aid from the state at the end of the year. Ruppert said Gov. Tim Pawlenty could decide to unallot the funds before Dec. 31.
"We'll know by the 25th or 26th if we get our 2008 portion," Ruppert told commissioners.
The state's budget deficit has the county concerned about losing aid and having to further cut programs. Commissioner Marv Zylstra suggested department heads begin to look at areas where cuts can be made if needed.
"Even though we've approved the 2009 budgets, we need to sit down and look at these budgets now," Zylstra said. "As we move on, we need to continue to find ways to save. I would prefer department heads sit down with their staff and look through their budgets.
"I'm afraid that next June or July, we're going to have to sit down with a sharp pencil and make some cuts," he added. "Everybody's aware of the economic climate out there and, unfortunately, it comes back to counties. ...Department heads and staff, they know their department better than anybody."
Commissioner Diane Thier said it's difficult to ask departments to come up with areas to cut.
"They all feel they need everything they get," she said. Thier was critical, however, of departments who overspend their budget and then approach the county for assistance.
In other action, the board:
- Approved salaries for elected county officials. The salary for the auditor-treasurer was set at $71,084; the salary for the county recorder was set at $55,224; the salary of the sheriff was set at $84,261; and the salary of the county attorney was set at $95,961.
- On a 3-2 vote, moved to keep board compensation and per diem rates the same in 2009. Commissioner Vern Leistico said the compensation should be the same as the cost of living adjustment (COLA) given to county employees in 2009, which amounts to a 1.5 percent COLA increase on Jan. 1, and a 1.5 percent COLA on July 1.
"I believe that it should go up ... otherwise we'll get further behind," Leistico said. The increase would have amounted to an additional $369 for each commissioner in 2009.
Commissioner David Benson, who supported the motion not to increase rates, said, "With the budget issues that the state is looking at, maybe we should be setting an example."
- Approved non-union employee compensation contracts, and ratified labor agreements for courthouse and library employees. A labor agreement with the supervisory essential employees was also approved.
- Approved a Natural Resources Block Grant of $94,174, which is used to implement and enforce environmental programs within the Nobles County Environmental Services department.
- Presented Environmental Services Director Wayne Smith with a County Conservation Award from the Association of Minnesota Cities and the Board of Water and Soil Resources. The award was based on the joint water plan developed by Nobles County, the local Soil and Water Conservation District, Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District and Kanaranzi-Little Rock Watershed District.
- Approved an increase in the contracted price for snow removal services. Municipalities will be paid $1,500 per mile, an increase from $1,000 per mile, to assist in snow removal on county roads within city limits.
- Revoked County State Aid Highway designation from a portion of CSAH 24 in Bigelow, and redesignated that status to a short segment of CSAH 2, connecting it to the newly completed four lanes of Minnesota 60.
l Approved a resolution prioritizing bridge projects within the county. The prioritization is necessary in applying for state bonding money.
- Approved the purchase of an updated system for the auditor-treasurer's office. Funds have been earmarked for the replacement even though it wasn't budgeted until 2009. A sale is being offered at this time, making the cost of the system approximately $10,000 less than the original estimate.
- Approved a contract with Springsted Inc., of St. Paul, to assist in the recruitment of a county finance director. The services will be provided for a fee of $8,400, plus expenses.
- Approved the contract with George Lawson of Ames, Iowa, to conduct a needs assessment at the Nobles County Library.
- Approved the appointment of Janice Moen to a four-year term on the Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water System board of commissioners, effective Jan. 1.