County Board changes to 0% levy for 2012

By Greg Hunt

Normally at final budget time for local government boards, a few minor tweaks are adjusted from the preliminary budget, and it’s a done deal. But with the clock winding down, the Isanti County Board changed paths from the budget presented two weeks prior by voting in a 0 percent levy for the 2012 budget.

At the Dec. 21 regular board meeting, Commissioners Larry Southerland, Alan Duff and Mike Warring were the “aye” votes to change to the 0 percent mark from the 2 percent Levy budget discussed at the Dec. 7 Truth in Taxation meeting. The difference between the two paths will be $309,529 less dollars the county will receive in levy dollars from tax payers next year.

Board Chairman Southerland made the motion, and Duff seconded it. Duff and Warring also pushed for a 0 percent Levy back in September during preliminary talks.

“We are a service organization, and other service organizations around our area are 5-15 percent down in operations,” spoke Comm. Duff during the discussion last Wednesday. “Cutting the government budget is what tax payers want; it’s time to be as lean and mean as possible.”

Commissioners George Larson and Susan Morris were taken aback at the shift to the 0 percent route. They voted against the 0 percent on Wednesday.

“I think we cut everything already to the bone when we were working with the 2 percent Levy,” said Comm. Larson. “We have to provide state-mandated services, yet the state isn’t providing us with the funds to cover those services.”

He followed that statement with, “I could support a compromise to a 1 percent Levy, which would add around $160,000 revenue compared to 0 percent.”

Comm. Morris called out Duff, Warring and Southerland to explain exactly what further cuts they are prepared to make in order to make up for the $309,000 deficiency. Comm. Morris also warned that slicing further into the reserves could affect the county’s bond rating for future projects.

Finance Director Chad Struss explained at the Dec. 28 final 2011 board meeting that when revenues fall short of expenditures, then by default changes will need to be made to the General Fund balance.

Chair Southerland reminded that the budget is primarily a blueprint and can be amended throughout the year as needed.

Final adjustments to 2011 budget

Family Services Fiscal Director Mark Jensen reported he is anticipating the county’s office to be 2 percent over budget when the December sheets are tabulated. The large number of out-of-home placements and high amount of food stamp recipients were among the issues affecting the late 2011 Family Services budget.

Highway Engineer Richard Heilman’s request was approved to purchase two Dell computer systems capable of running high-level highway programs for $3989. Those funds were still available in the department’s 2011 budget.