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Proposed Kandiyohi County, Minn., budget to increase 1.5% in 2013

WILLMAR -- Flat-line budget requests from county departments, along with a decreased payroll and less-than-expected expenses at the landfill mean Kandiyohi County will spend less next year than it did in 2012 or 2011.

Expenditures in the proposed 2013 budget were pared down to $58.2 million Thursday morning when the Kandiyohi County Commissioners met for a work session.

That's less than the $59 million in expenses this year and $58.5 million in 2011.

There will be a $71,000 reduction in state aid and reductions in grants, but low interest payments combined with the commissioners' decision not to dip into reserves as deeply as the last two years will create an overall county revenue budget that increases 1.5 percent to generate enough money to cover expenses.

"That's the smallest budget increase you guys have put together since before 1996," said County Administrator Larry Kleindl, attributing the results to "good teamwork."

The net levy increase for next year will be just under 2 percent, at 1.89 percent

County Board Chairman Richard Larson said he was "very satisfied" with the budget and efforts of staff to keep the budget and levy increases low.

That does not mean there are not financial challenges in the budget, especially for Family Services which was one of the few departments to request an increase in expenditures.

A growing number of out-of-home placements for children is a "driving factor" in rising costs for Family Services, which is budgeted to spend $13.9 million next year. That's an increase of $371,000 from this year.

Kleindl said the county is also paying more for individuals admitted to mental health hospitals.

The Road and Bridge Fund is getting and spending less in 2013, in part because of a reduction in federal grants that helped fund several road safety projects and decreasing state transportation revenues generated from the gas tax and license tabs.

The $11.2 million in the proposed budget will have to be stretched further because the soaring cost of bituminous means it will cost more for maintenance and construction projects.

Public Works Director Gary Danielson said bituminous prices "really jumped this year and the prospect of it going down doesn't look very good."

If the estimated $300,000 in "lost purchasing dollars" due to increased bituminous costs are not recovered, it will mean less maintenance and long-term deterioration of roads that will cost even more to repair, said Danielson, who also said the county's capital equipment budget for public works was underfunded.

The proposed county expenditures for 2013 include $100,000 for an addition to the Kandiyohi County Historical Society Museum. Half of the contribution will come from one-time money the county is getting from its insurance trust fund. The allocation is on top of the regular $56,200 allocation.

Because of outdated computer software, the commissioners budgeted more for information technology that would help advance plans to redesign county departments and services.

And commissioners gave the OK to a request for an additional $4,000 for the Kandiyohi Area Transit system.

Commissioner Jim Butterfield said the $13,000 in total funds KAT requested is a "small price to pay" to get people to their jobs in the county.

KAT is losing revenue because some cities in the county have reduced their financial contribution.

Commissioner Harlan Madsen said KAT is the only transportation option some small-town residents have available to them.

Recent resignations at the county's University of Minnesota Extension program will bring about several changes, including a decision to fund the county's 4-H coordinator at a full-time rate rather than an eight-tenths time position, a move that Madsen said was "very appropriate" to do at this time."

In an effort to integrate services, however, the Extension program will move from its location in downtown Willmar and be located in the PACT for Families office at the Health and Human Services building. The county will fund part-time office support staff for Extension and contract with PACT for additional support staff time.

PACT for Families Collaborative is a children's mental health and family services collaborative, serving several counties in central Minnesota.

The relocation is expected to take place this fall.

The budget also includes several large bond payments for projects like the Health and Human Services Building, Law Enforcement Center, sewer system and new emergency radio system that will all be paid off in the next several years.

This year those bond payments total $4.9 million in principal and $1.6 million in interest.

A final presentation and approval of the budget will be made at the next regular County Board meeting on Sept. 4.


Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750