Douglas County Commissioners review preliminary 2013 budget
In midsummer with fall quickly approaching, Douglas County commissioners have already begun reviewing the 2013 budget.
Department heads met with the board recently to glance at projections and make requests for adjustments in the preliminary numbers. Overall, the county has been on task for 2012.
"The departments are doing pretty good with their budgets," said County Auditor/Treasurer Char Rosenow.
The drafted net budget for next year showed a 2.07 percent increase, resulting in a total levy of $25,135,474 - a $510,250 increase from 2012.
Preliminary numbers showed a 2.84 increase from last year. A reduction in the audit, law enforcement, public health and social services budgets and an increase in the license bureau's budget changed the percentage to 2.07.
The Viking Library System is requesting a 2.5 percent increase in funding from each of the counties it serves, including Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens and Traverse.
The library requested $104,173 from Douglas County in 2012 and is asking for $106,777 in 2013. During the past four years, the library has received flat funding.
Viking Library System director Peg Werner said the library has yielded a return on investment of $4.62. In 2011, the return on investment was $2.83 of which Douglas County contributed $104,173 to the Viking Library System and received $294,719 worth of services in return.
Werner said a study done by the University of Minnesota (Duluth Labovitz School of Business and Economics) showed that even people who do not use the library recognize the importance of the library in a community.
"[The study] shows the value that citizens place on the library," Werner said.
Although no action was taken at the July 30 meeting, a hurdle has already been placed before the library.
"I feel we can't afford to invest anymore," said Commissioner Paul C. Anderson, citing a 10 percent increase in the county library budget.
Werner said that is in part because, "library supplies are going through the roof, and we don't know why."
To offset the increase, Anderson proposed the Bookmobile make less frequent stops. Werner said that would be like cutting the hours of operation for a stationary library since the Bookmobile is the library for some communities. She also clarified that all money that is raised by Douglas County is spent on services within the county.
Douglas County Library Director Karen Simmons noted that circulation has gone up and the e-book checkouts at the Douglas County Library are the highest in the Viking Library System.
"We're in very changing times for the library," Simmons said.
The Douglas County Library is looking at adding a few new computers and updating existing machines to accommodate the rate of traffic the library sees in its computer lab. A possible integration of workforce center terminals was also mentioned.
LAND, RESOURCES AND BUILDINGS
No significant changes were reported for the land and resource management department. Director Dave Rush indicated that a plan may need to be put in place to address replacement of county vehicles, not only in his department but for the entire county fleet, as is needed due to age and mileage increases.
Maintenance department head Steve Ziemer said his department is doing quite well and work on the roof over the court rooms, mechanical room and the link between the courthouse and the courts area is scheduled to begin in four to five weeks.
The Douglas Soil and Water Conservation District (DSWCD) requested an increase of 4.66 percent; raising the amount received in 2013 to $207,487 from $198,252 in 2012. Gary Thoennes, DSWCD chair, said part of the increase can be attributed to the state relying on local governments to pick up funding.
HEALTH AND SERVICES
Depending on construction completion and asbestos abatement, the social services department may need to expend $26,000 for rent at the hospital location where the child support staff is currently housed. No state dollars are available to subsidize the cost.
"I'll be pleased if we're in there by March," said Social Services director Mike Woods. The original move-in was projected for November 2012.
Original numbers provided to the county commissioners on July 30 had the social services department at a 3.57 percent increase from last year; new figures have dropped that number to 3.27 percent.
The public health department discovered that a Blue Cross Blue Shield Active Living grant providing $125,000 per calendar year for five years will be prorated through July in 2013.
Since a fraction of the anticipated amount will be received, a little more than $72,000, the department's budget was significantly impacted. However, costs associated with the grant were removed.
"By reducing the expenditures accordingly, as well as this sort of informal promise of additional funds coming for our project," said Public Health Director Sandy Tubbs, "I would expect that we will actually end up back where I originally proposed, if not better."
Numbers provided at the July budget meeting that included the grant dollars set the budget at $515,706; the adjustment received in August decreased the public health department's budget by $17,272.
Discussions have been ongoing regarding a source of funding for community enhancement projects.
The license bureau has seen an increase in traffic and is experiencing lines out the door, said department head Danita Ward. In response to this influx, she requested the commissioners consider adding a license clerk to fill a vacancy which will increase the department's budget. The change from July to August projections was an increase of $18,804 from 2012; prior to the request the department had a decrease of $18,966.
A reduction in the road deputy line item in the law enforcement budget decreased the department's total by $62,318. The department's 2013 total budget now stands at $7,207,161 - a 0.87 percent increase from this year.
The county will save $13,000 by using a private company to conduct the audit; $75,000 was budgeted, so it will change to $62,000.
Crystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.