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Swift County Commissioners move to iPads for official work

BENSON — After their regular meeting Tuesday, the Swift County Commissioners will sit down with their iPads and learn how to navigate the new tool.

The county just purchased the iPads and all five commissioners will have their own electronic tablet to conduct official county business, including viewing numerous pages of documents that frequently accompany meeting agendas.

The new technology will save the county time and money, said County Administrator Mike Pogge-Weaver.

It will also bring the county in line with what commissioners from other counties in the region use.

Pogge-Weaver said Swift County collaborates with neighboring counties to the south and west whose commissioners already use iPads.

When Swift County Commissioners attend those joint meetings, they're about the only ones with a stack of paper in front of them, instead of an iPad.

Pogge-Weaver said the commissioners were eager to start using iPads, which will save county office personnel time because they won't have to print, assemble and mail out information packets to the commissioners in advance of public meetings.

Because new postal deadlines would require those packets to be put together a day earlier than the current deadline, Pogge-Weaver said having electronic agendas will make it easier to get timely information to the commissioners.

"For us it's a time and cost savings," he said. "It'll be a good transition."

One thing the commissioners will have quick access to is county budget information, including the preliminary 2014 budget and levy the board approved recently.

The proposed budget of $17,715,668 is about $1 million less than the 2013 budget.

The primary reason for the decrease is because the county received a bump in federal road construction funds for a state road project in 2013.

The proposed gross levy is $9,060,234.

That will be offset with county program aid of $200,850, which is an increase of $40,000 over last year, for a net operating levy of $8,859,384.

The levy is a 2.6 percent increase over 2013.

The county, which has a history of showing a budget deficit, is making a shift to operating with a balanced budget. Pogge-Weaver said that shift will take several years to accomplish but will give the county a clearer view of actual revenues and expenditures.

Usually those deficits were settled by the end of the year because departments typically under-spent what had been budgeted and because of low expectation for some anticipated revenues.

Pogge-Weaver said he wants to have a balanced budget that shows the County Board's priorities and actual expenditures and revenues. "I want to close the deficit spending over time."

In 2012, however, the county showed an actual deficit of $84,000.

Pogge-Weaver said he does not think there will be a deficit at the end of 2013, but said the upcoming budget had some challenges, including the 2014 levy limit freeze, rate increases for employee retirement funds, upcoming labor negotiations, changes needed due to the Affordable Care Act, meeting new certification requirements for assessors and upgrading the 800-megahertz emergency radio system in Appleton.

He said a potential shortfall in the general revenue fund will be mostly covered by transferring surplus funds from the road and bridge fund.

The county will be imposing a new wheelage tax Jan. 1 that will bring about $114,000 in new money for transportation projects.

The commissioners will hold a Truth-in-Taxation hearing at 6 p.m. Dec. 3.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750