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County wrestles with budget woes

Although no board action was taken, Douglas County commissioners listened to a presentation about the county's budget at its regular meeting Tuesday morning.

Tom Reddick, Douglas County auditor/treasurer, explained to four of the commissioners - Jerry Johnson was absent - that currently, the county is $1.8 million over its levy limits.

However, Reddick stressed that the figures are still preliminary because he doesn't know what will happen at the state level.

He said he took last year's levy and increased it by eight tenths.

"It is what it is," Reddick said of the budget. "Now, how do we get it back?"

Reddick made suggestions to the board, stressing that they were just suggestions at this point and that he didn't expect any board action because everything is still too preliminary.

His suggestions included the following:

•Removing all capital outlet funding, which amounts to $580,400.

•Freeze all wages, which would amount to $597,095 in savings.

•Retain a levy from the public health budget. The money, which would amount to $568,512, would be taken from the fund balance.

•Take the money to pay for juvenile detention out of the jail budget instead of out of the social services budget because the jail budget isn't included in the county's levy limit. The amount would be about $180,000.

Reddick told the commissioners that any modifications to the proposed plan would push the county's budget over the levy limit.

"We have come up with the money, but we don't have much wiggle room," Reddick said.

The levy is far from being final, he stated again, because of the unallotments coming down from the state.

He told the commissioners, "I don't know how you wish to proceed."

Commissioner Paul Anderson said, "There's not much you can do until you hear from the state."

Reddick answered by saying, "We are at a crossroads. We need to know figures from the state and then the county can figure out what to do."

One of the commissioners asked if services or people were going to be cut.

Reddick explained that with the plan that was presented, nobody has to be laid off.

However, he added, "If we don't do this, you will have to lay off people."

Reddick also noted that he was proud of all the department heads who he said, "hold the line" and will do what they can to help out with the budget situation.

In other action

County commissioners approved the following:

•A request from the United Communities Advocating Non-violence (UCAN) to use the courthouse lawn for the start of the domestic violence walk, which is slated for Tuesday, October 13 at 5 p.m.

•The re-appointment of Colleen Burquest to the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Board.

•A request from Douglas County Library Director Trish Conroy to fill a vacancy for a full-time library clerk.

•Awarded a bid to Minnerath Construction from Cold Spring in the amount of $673,261. for a joint contract with Grant County for work to be done on County Road 19. The engineer's estimate was $794,791.

The board also received information from Douglas County Parks Superintendent Al Lieffort about a Minnesota Historical Society capital grant and Central Lakes Trail project.

The board will have to approve this request at its next meeting, which is set for August 25 at 9 a.m.

The project includes work to be done at Kensington Runestone Park on the Ohman House. Apparently, the house is collapsing and is in need of repair. Money for the project would come from the Legacy Fund, said Lieffort.

More information will be brought forth at the August 25 meeting.