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Commissioners eye $16.7 million budget

Posted 9/09/09 (Wed)

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

McKenzie County Commissioners will be considering a 34.8 percent increase in the county’s 2010 budget during a preliminary budget hearing on Sept. 18. The hearing, which is open to the public, will be held at 10 a.m. in the commissioners meeting room.
According to Frances Olson, McKenzie County auditor, the 2010 budget requests a total of $16,692,671 compared to $12,377,426, which was budgeted for county expenditures in 2009. The proposed budget allows for a 19.7 percent increase to the General Fund in an effort to keep county taxes from rising.
“The General Fund will again be entirely funded from resources other than real property taxes,” adds Olson. “Revenues such as the oil and gas gross production tax, interest, oil royalties and various fees for services such as the Recorder’s Office and the Landfill are sufficient to fund general government with additional funds available for discretionary funding.”
According to Olson, discretionary funding could include transfers to some of the Special Revenue Funds like the Veterans Services, County Agent, Water Resource District, Weed Control and the Job Development Authority to reduce the amount of property taxes required to fund these services.
”Only $888,163 of real property taxes would be required to fund the total of $16,692,671 being requested for 2010 services. That is about five percent from taxes and 95 percent from other sources,” adds Olson.  “The current estimated mill levy for 2009 is 36.39 mills compared to the 2008 levy of 35.81 mills.  After the budget hearings, the mills will be adjusted for any reductions made to the budget.”
Most line items within the General Fund have increased a small percentage due to salary adjustments and  the increasing costs of health insurance. Departments that maintain vehicles, such as the Sheriff’s department have had to ask for additional funding to keep up with the increasing costs for fuel and maintenance. A state mandated increase in the mileage allowance for officials and employees attending out-of-town meetings has also affected travel line items.
“In reviewing the numbers, it looks like we should be close, but so far, no department is over budget for 2009,” comments Olson. “The increases in the travel allowances didn't go into effect until Aug. 1 and fuel prices are actually down from where they were a year ago when we were putting together numbers for 2009, so we'll probably finish the year on budget.”
Although the commissioners are looking at an increase in the budget, not all departments will be seeing part of that increase. Technology Services within the General Fund decreased due to a change in how the county is receiving services and the Landfill saw a significant decrease because last year’s budget included funding for a new compactor.
Line items within the General Fund seeing increases include Building Construction, Special Projects and the Sheriff’s Department.
“The Building Construction item has a large increase as the Commission considers how to address problems that have developed with the aging heating and ventilation system,” states OIson. “Another increase is the District Road and Road and Bridge Fund, as oil activity in the county continues strong in and through the county. The Road Department and the Board of Commissioners must be proactive in maintaining a good program for maintenance and rehabilitation of county routes.”
Any taxpayer may appear and speak for or against any of the proposed levies during the 2010 budget hearing on Sept. 18. After the hearing, the county commissioners will make their final budget decisions.