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EDC approves revised budget for the year

WILLMAR -- New expenses prompted the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission to revise its budget upwards for the year, a move that was unanimously approved Thursday by the joint operations board.

To help cover the spending increase, the EDC's reserve fund will be dipped into more deeply. The agency had already budgeted about $30,000 in spending from reserves this year, and is raising this amount to $33,000.

"We're going to try and make this work," Steve Renquist, executive director of the Economic Development Commission, told the operations board on Thursday.

The largest new expenditure, $18,000, is for a contribution to the Southwest Initiative Foundation to help support the foundation's work in regional economic development, renewable energy and other projects. This allocation wasn't in the EDC's original budget for 2011 that was adopted last year.

A decision last month to increase the agency's ag specialist position from half time to full time has added another $15,000 in salary and benefit costs.

A $5,000 allocation to the Willmar community marketing coalition, along with a slight increase in employee insurance costs, makes up the rest of the spending increases.

"If we continue at our present rate of spending, we will spend $500,589," Renquist said. Before the revisions, the annual budget stood at $485,111.

The Economic Development Commission is able to absorb the increase because of its reserve fund, which has swelled over the years with conservative management of the agency's expenses. For the past four years, the agency's budget and its property tax levy have mostly remained flat, even while EDC activities, which range from business retention and expansion to promotion of the technology and renewable energy industries, have grown in both scope and number.

It's not clear how long this can continue, Renquist warned the operations board on Thursday.

"Each year gets a little harder to come in under budget and contribute to the reserve," he said. "Will this be the year we can't do that? I don't know."

The EDC's staff will work, however, to keep a rein on expenses this year so the agency can end the year at or below budget, he said. "I believe we can do it if we work doubly hard."

Efforts will start next month to develop priorities and an action plan around which the 2012 budget will be built. A board planning session is scheduled for June 30.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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