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Hubbard County approves slight increase for 2013 budget

The Hubbard County commissioners approved a $12 million proposed levy for 2013, an approximate 3 percent increase from last year's levy.

But there's likely to be paring on the horizon.

Commissioners noted the county will see an increase of $250,000 in personnel costs; "the rest is want," commissioner Lyle Robinson said.

Reserves are likely to be tapped this year, commissioners agreed.

"The auditor says we're comfortable," Robinson said of using fund balances.

The 2013 budget reflects revenues in the general fund of $9,152,372 and expenditures of $9,623,041, a variance of negative $470,669, auditor-treasurer Pam Heeren said.

The budget "is certainly doable," she said after the meeting. Some years, the county has looked at cutting up to a million, Heeren said.

County Program Aid from the state is also buoying spirits, $273,058 is expected by year's end with $552,857 projected for 2013.

Commissioners approved special district levies of $110,732 for the Headwaters Regional Development Commission and $230,000 for Hubbard County Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

The $12 million levy proposal compares with the 2012 levy of $11,660,194.

Commissioners scheduled a work session for 9 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26 for budget review and goal setting.

A Truth in Taxation hearing will be held at 6:05 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6 at the courthouse.

The final levy amount will be approved in December.

In other action, commissioners:

• Learned work on the CSAH 39 bridge in Lakeport Township is underway, an expected 90-day project.

Robinson questioned the detours in place and the effect on township roads.

• Approved the purchase of disc golf course equipment (nine baskets, nine tee box signs and a rules sign) to be installed at Heartland Park. Cost for the equipment from Disc Golf Association of Aromas, Calif. is $3,410.

A Scout who's pursuing Eagle Scout designation is expected to complete work on the project, with an anticipated finish in October.

The course's path will parallel the trail and come around the courts, away from the playground.

• Approved, after considerable discussion, an increase in salary for Chief Deputy Scott Parks, at the request of Sheriff Cory Aukes.

Parks' current salary of $57,754 is less than that of eight employees working under him, Aukes said of overtime and holiday pay, for which the chief deputy is not eligible.

Aukes recommended Parks move to Step 5 on the compensation grid, earning $63,110, and move to Step 6 in January, earning $65,003.

"As chief deputy, I was the lowest paid deputy in the office," commissioner Cal Johannsen said of his tenure in law enforcement. "I agree it's not appropriate for officers making more money. There's merit in paying the chief deputy. "

But Kathy Grell disagreed, stating a comparison shouldn't be made. "He's salaried, he has no timecard. The highest earning officer is not the right way to look at this."

"It's difficult to be a supervisor, and not get a nickel," Dick Devine said. "But I agree; it should not come down to dollars."

County coordinator Debbie Thompson said increasing salaries upon promotion has been past practice in other departments.

"It's hard to hire a manager who's making less than some of his employees," Robinson said. "How do we fix it?"

"The way to solve it is to bite the bullet," Devine said. "He's doing a terrific job. I don't want to lose him."

The motion to move Parks to Step 5, and Step 6 in January met approval.

Aukes said the increase will keep the department within budget.

• Denied the request to purchase a replacement Sentence To Serve vehicle, and approved the replacement of the transmission in the 1999 STS vehicle, which has over 210,000 miles. The issue will be reviewed next year.

• Directed Brian Halbasch, emergency management director, to wait on the purchase of furniture and equipment for the Emergency Operations Center in the basement of the Law Enforcement Center.

An inventory will be conducted of items remaining after the Social Services move.

• Accepted state grant funding of $26,000 per year in 2013 and 2014 for Toward Zero Death Enforcement for use by the sheriff's department.

The funding will address DWI, speed, seatbelt use and other safety issues.

• Considered a levy request of $190,696 from Kitchigami Regional Library director Marian Ridge for 2013. The county's levy amount was $171,623 in 2012.

The increased amount restores the hours cut in 2012, Ridge said of personnel costs rising from $133,053 to $149,907.

The city's proposed levy for the library in 2013 is $44,632.

"There's very little service for the dollar in the outer county," Robinson said.

The amount proposed for the mobile library operations went from $6,950 to $9,202 in 2013, this due to a partner county "pulling out."

"You can buy a book for less than taking time off work" to use the mobile library, Robinson said, estimating each stop costing $375. He suggested "figuring out a way to get it used more."

Ridge said plans call for phasing out the mobile library by 2014, due to the expense, when pilot projects for book distribution will be initiated. Books by mail, she said, is a model that's been abandoned, but the Kitchigami Regional Library is considering two other options.

• Heard an update on the Hubbard in Prevention Coalition, a program funded by a $1 million grant from the Department of Human Services, St. Joseph's the fiscal host.

The program employs prevention strategies to reduce the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs in Hubbard County.

• Approved John Miller to fill the Planning Commission at-large vacancy.

• Approved the low bid of $135,827 from Alternative Furniture of Eden Prairie for refurbished furniture for the new Social Services offices.

• Supported the nomination of Eric Buitenwerf for vice president of the Minnesota Association of County Planning and Zoning Administrators, a six- year commitment.

"This gives us an opportunity to be heard," Johannsen pointed out.

"It's a tremendous opportunity," Robinson agreed of access to funding.

• Reported Mari Jo Lohmeier will fill the position of 4-H program coordinator.

• Approved a $5,500 2012 allocation to the Hubbard County Historical Society.

• Approved an $800 leadership and goal setting training contract with M State, the training to be held at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2 at the Public Works Building.

• Approved a Forest Riders Snowmobile Trail grant agreement.

• Approved the purchase of two laptop computers at $600 to $700 each and software at $300 each for the county attorney's office.

• Reported receipt of $1,890 in Northwest Service Cooperative Wellness Dollars, $220 distributed to Heritage Living Center, $1,670 to the county.

A SHIP grant of $1,000 for promotion of employee wellness was also received.

The Wellness Dollars were used for an employee health fair, with screenings completed.

An estimated 60 to 65 percent of employees participated.