Proposed $58M budget scrutinized by commissioners

WILLMAR -- A $58.6 million budget that's being proposed for Kandiyohi County next year is being scrutinized this week by the County Board of Commissioners.

WILLMAR -- A $58.6 million budget that's being proposed for Kandiyohi County next year is being scrutinized this week by the County Board of Commissioners.

If the budget is approved as is, the levy would be set at $25.3 million, which would be a 7.83 percent increase from 2006. It would be the highest increase in at least six years.

The county will receive about $2 million in state aid, leaving county taxpayers to pick up $23.3 million.

The top three budget items for 2007 include family services at $13.4 million, road and bridge at $14.4 million and general fund/solid waste at $26.4 million.

The commissioners went through most of the proposed budget line by line on Monday, asking questions about proposed increases and decreases in funding allocations for various departments.


The commissioners were told that revenue generated from building permits in the zoning department are down this year and are expected to be even lower next year as new home construction wanes.

Administrator Wayne Thompson said it's possible the zoning department could see a decrease of $90,000 to $100,000 in revenue from permit fees in 2007. A suggestion to raise those fees to offset the expected loss was met with resistance from at least two commissioners.

"It's tough to increase the fees," said Commissioner Dennis Peterson.

He said there are "a lot of unhappy people" with the current fee structure for building permits and raising rates wouldn't be well received.

Peterson and Chairman Dean Shuck said the fee for building permits is one of the issues they receive the most complaints about from constituents. Shuck said if rates are left unchanged now, they could be increased later in the year if it appears the revenue losses are significant.

The proposed sheriff's budget is $3.6 million, an increase of $252,700, or 7.3 percent, from 2006.

The proposed budget for the county jail is $4.2 million, a 5.8 percent increase, and $2 million is budgeted for community corrections and the sentence-to-serve program.

"We spend a lot of money on crime," said Thompson. "Law enforcement is expensive."


The Sheriff's Department has been getting busier each year. Thompson cited a report that said 1,277 tickets were issued by the Sheriff's Department in 1993 and 7,631 were issued in 2005. Likewise, there were 6,998 calls for service in 1993 and 15,622 calls in 2005.

The cost of providing medical and dental care to county prisoners is also increasing. The proposed budget for 2007 is $300,000 -- a $50,000 increase. Thompson said the county has had some big medical bills for prisoners in the past, including paying for one inmate who had a broken jaw and another who was on life support.

A $28,600 increase in the rescue squad budget will pay for a new "jaws of life" piece of equipment that's used to rescue people who are trapped in crashed vehicles. The new equipment will be able to handle the new alloys that are used now in vehicles, said Thompson.

The commissioners also discussed future costs of replacing the existing rescue squad building and changing the emergency communication signal to a new 800-megahertz system that's being slowly implemented in Minnesota. The system would allow all emergency agencies to communicate on a common radio signal.

Thompson said if Kandiyohi County creates a partnership with other counties, grants may be available to offset the expensive transition.

A 35 percent proposed increase in the Extension Service budget drew debate from commissioners. The $41,000 increase, which would bring the budget to $156,000, would be primarily used to fund 4-H programs in the county. The number of kids participating in 4-H is increasing and needs additional staffing, said Shuck.

Commissioner Richard Falk questioned the increase.

Shuck said the board "got kind of ornery" when it cut Extension's budget three years ago. He said even if this increase is approved, Extension's total budget would still be less than what it was in 2003.


The board will continue the budget process at 1 p.m. today in a working-group session at the Health and Human Services building.

Formal approval of the budget and levy will take place later this fall at a regular board meeting.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at or 320-894-9750
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