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County holds budget hearing

By Staff | Sep 26, 2014

The Pierce County Board of Commissioners met with department heads and citizens at the 2015 budget hearing Wednesday evening at the county courthouse in Rugby.

The budget will be considered for final adoption at the county commissioner’s meeting Oct. 7.

Citizens requested clarifications on how land and property values are assessed. City of Rugby resident, Wolford area farmer and N.D. Rep. Jon Nelson, R-District 14, asked the commissioners how often they speak with the city about combining law enforcement services.

“As a city and county resident, I pay for sheriff, city police and the law enforcement center,” Nelson said. “I’m wondering if we shouldn’t be talking with other entities for a bigger economy of scale.”

District 4 Commissioner Duane Johnston, the board chairman, stated he is in favor of the idea.

“When (Sheriff Robert) Graber retired, we brought it up to city council, but they wouldn’t join,” Johnston said.

Graber retired in December 2009. Nelson stated that two taxing entities are doing the same thing. Johnston said he will raise the issue at the Law Enforcement Center advisory board meeting in January.

2015 Budget proposal

The sheriff’s department is slated to receive $165,900, which is $46,500 less than requested. The department is expected to have total expenditures of $159,575 for 2014. Expenditures for 2013 totaled $154,875.42.

“One of the requests I asked for was another officer position to assist because of how busy we are,” Sheriff Matt Lunde said. “It’s crunch time and it’s understandable. I’m not overly disappointed, but it would’ve been nice relief for our department, which is three people. But we also have to think about what’s best for the taxpayers’ money.”

The courthouse budget is slated for $127,000, the same as requested. Because of contstruction for the remodel of the old jail for social services, the courthouse estimated expenditures for 2014 of $126,068 was exceeded by about $15,000 in the first six months. Expenditures for 2013 totaled $36,587.70.

The auditor-treasurer’s department is slated to receive $106,350, which is $309.96 less than requested. The department is expected to have total expenditures of $102,135.56 for 2014. Expenditures for 2013 totaled $90,021.51. Auditor-Treasurer Karin Fursather is pleased with the proposal.

The county commissioners are slated to receive a total of $67,571.27 in salaries and benefits, which is the same as requested. The proposed salaries and benefits range from $12,128.03 to $16,197.46. The county is expected to pay the same amount for 2014 as the total being proposed. Expenditures for 2013 totaled $64,948.32 in salaries and benefits.

For travel, the commissioners are slated to receive $89,321.27, the same as requested, and expected to be paid for 2014. Expenditures for 2013 totaled $85,374.92.

The clerk of court’s department is slated to receive $75,310, which is $9,456.8 less than requested. The department is expected to have total expenditures of $66,782.52 for 2014. Expenditures for 2013 totaled $61,987.

“It’s bringing us up closer to the salaries of other counties that are our size,” clerk of court Coleen Stutrud said. “We took an average of four counties higher and four counties lower than us for our request, so we’ll be waiting for the salary study.”

Stutrud added that 81 percent of salaries and benefits for her department are paid by the state. She said the state also supplies the clerk’s computer and a computer in the courtroom.

The state’s attorney’s department is slated to receive $64,371.62, which is $546.04 more than requested. The department is expected to have total expenditures of $63,828.51 for 2014. Expenditures for 2013 totaled $60,875.72.

State’s Attorney Galen Mack didn’t not have any significant issues with the proposed budget, but noted a trend of area counties making the position full-time.

“We’ll see what the future brings,” Mack said.

The county recorder’s office is slated to receive $59,146.32, which is $15,701.47 less than requested. The department is expected to have total expenditures of $50,883.08 for 2014. Expenditures for 2013 totaled $48,604.55.

The difference in what was requested and what is proposed is primarily related to hours for the deputy recorder, said Lori Miron, county recorder.

“Right now, until the salary study is done, we’re OK with what’s (proposed),” Miron said. “We did an informal salary study (similar to the clerk’s) and that’s what we based our numbers on. I requested 32 hours for my deputy and my understanding is it will be 24, which is still more than 18.” The deputy recorder currently works 18 hours per week.

Miron wants taxpayers to know that upgrades in technology for her department are not at taxpayer expense. She said her office brought in more than $39,000 in 2013 and more than $8,000 went to the special preservation fund, which provides for computers, labelers, scanners, support agreements and other technology.

The Memorial Hall department is slated to receive $58,500, the same as requested. The department was expected to have 2014 expenditures totaling $58,079.63, including $20,000 for capital outlay. Through six months, only $15,989.89 was spent. Expenditures for 2013 totaled $33,854.96.

The tax director’s department is slated to receive $29,040.85, which is $721.18 less than requested. The department is expected to have total expenditures of $28,459.08 for 2014. Expenditures for 2013 totaled $27,074.19.

The disaster emergency services department is slated to receive $16,860.80, which is $247.20 less than requested. The department is expected to have total expenditures of $16,390 for 2014. Expenditures for 2013 totaled $15,509.10.

NOTE: The 10 offices listed above are included in the general fund. The general fund expenditures based on budget proposal are expected at $1,577,815. General fund expenditures for 2014 are expected to be $1,230,519. Expenditures from the general fund totaled $1,445,706 in 2013.

Other departments

The social services department is slated to receive $802,997.69, which is $23,874.63 more than requested. The department is expected to have total expenditures of $789,394.06 for 2014. Expenditures for 2013 totaled $494,858.20.

The law enforcement center budget is slated to receive $359,719.45, which is $50,241.85 more than requested. The department is expected to have total expenditures of $217,197.47 in 2014. Expenditures for 2013 totaled $337,681.34.

“We’ve had some increased costs there with a new system we’re having developed,” Lunde said.

Many counties in the state are being forced to do the same because of unaffordable costs of current 911 providers. Lunde emphasized that the law enforcement center, which includes the emergency dispatchers, is separate from Heart of America Correctional and Treatment Center, which shares the building.

“The jail is on a self-sufficient budget, where we (LEC) have costs we incur,” Lunde said.

The E-911 coordinator’s department is slated to receive $139,831, which is equal to what was requested. The department is expected to have total expenditures of $38,418 for 2014. Expenditures for 2013 totaled $45,008.21.

The county agent’s department is slated to receive $59,194.01, which is $889.49 less than requested. The department is expected to have total expenditures of $53,892.84 for 2014. Expenditures for 2013 totaled $40,409.17.

“I’m just hoping it goes through as proposed,” county agent Yolanda Schmidt said. “It’s really important to have that support staff position her in the office.”

The community service department is slated to receive $49,818.97, which is $4,453.42 less than requested. The department is expected to have total expenditures of $52,198.44 in 2014. Expenditures for 2013 totaled $33,606.65.

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