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County sees big budget increase

Posted 9/15/10 (Wed)

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

McKenzie County Commissioners will be considering a 39.3 percent increase in the county’s 2011 budget during a preliminary budget hearing on Sept. 23. 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 2011 budget requests a total of $22,321,942 compared to $16,022,009, which was budgeted for county expenditures in 2010. The proposed budget would require $7,698,543 to be levied in order to fund the proposed expenditures compared to a levy of $859,924 in 2010.
“I cannot second-guess the commissioners on what cuts they will or can make from this proposed budget,” says Olson. “They will need to consider funds available both for 2011 and into the future.  There will also be levy limitations to deal with.  Some funds are requesting more than can be raised with the property tax as limited by law and there will have to be priorities set for the available money.”
Many of the proposed budget increases have come from county departments requesting additional staff to help with an increased work load. Other increases are due to planned projects and the need to keep the county’s roads in good shape.
“A lot of it is increases related to added employees – wages, benefits, additional equipment.  A big part of the special projects is the $750,000 committed to the healthcare systems for the Wellness Center,” adds Olson. “The county also added a separate department to get the county up to speed with Geographical Information System mapping.  There are many applications within the county including the rural addressing grid, property parcels, defining taxing districts such as fire and school districts and election precincts that will benefit from the GIS department.”
As with most years, the proposed budget holds large increases for most line items, increases that will be closely looked at and considered by the county commissioners before a final budget is approved.
“I cannot comment on the increase city residents may see in their taxes without seeing the city levy requests and the school levy request,” states Olson. “What we need to remember is that this is only the preliminary budget and it is only for the county funding.”
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.