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County starts budget talks

Although the Douglas County budget for next year isn't set for several months, its commissioners and auditor/treasurer Char Rosenow have already begun taking a look at what it's going to look like.

At a special budget meeting last Thursday, March 7, Rosenow asked the commissioners what their goal is and what the highest budget increase is that they would feel comfortable with.

"This is just an estimate," Rosenow said. "We just need to have a goal."

Last year's budget was increased by 2.99 percent and the year before it was increased by 1.84 percent, she said.

Although they took no action, the commissioners agreed that the budget could be increased but any hike should not exceed 3 percent.

Rosenow also discussed the excess fund balance and ways the county could spend it down.

Once again, no action was taken, with Rosenow providing information to the board.

Here's a look at some of the items that could come from the excess fund balance, some of which have already been approved:

• Election equipment.

• Furniture and equipment, including new laptop computers and docking stations, for the auditor/treasurer's office.

• Maintenance items for the courthouse and services center building, including heat exchanger, steam coil air handler, auto floor scrubber, upgraded railings, restaining stairways and painting projects.

• Technology updates in conference rooms.

• New armored vehicle for sheriff's office.

• Courthouse parking lot project.

New HR position added

At the March 5 county board meeting, the commissioners denied by a 3-2 vote hiring a full-time position for a human resources recruiter/generalist.

However, at Thursday's meeting, Commissioner Jerry Rapp's motion to hire someone for an 80 percent position was unanimously approved.

Rapp said after listening to employees in the human resources office, he decided that the position needed to be filled.

After a lengthy discussion about the position and several questions from the new commissioners, county coordinator Heather Schlangen explained that the person would work in the human resources department under the direction of HR director Lee Katzmarek. In addition, she said the person would qualify for insurance and other benefits and that if by chance there wasn't enough work, the person would then be laid off.

Schlangen said that a lot of time and effort goes into hiring and recruiting good employees and that it is a critical function of the department.

"I am confident in that if Heather says they need someone, then they need someone," said Charlie Meyer, chairman of the board.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

(320) 763-1242