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County approves levy, plans to look for more cuts

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news Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Not satisfied with a negative property tax increase, at least one Beltrami County commissioner said Tuesday he'd look for more cuts.

The Beltrami County Board approved Tuesday night a preliminary property tax levy for 2011 of $16.9 million, which is $73,513 or 0.43 percent less than the 2010 levy. The measure passed unanimously, with Commissioner Jim Lucachick absent.

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"We are downsizing county government," said Commissioner Jim Heltzer. "We are down 45 positions. "Even though we are cutting, I do not want to cut the DWI Court."

The successful intense monitoring program for repeat drunken drivers isn't in the budget, but Heltzer vowed it would be before commissioners were done with budget work in late November.

"It will not go away quietly," Heltzer said, adding that he will still look for cuts beyond that program.

"I still will attempt to find ways to find lower expenditures - perhaps 1 to 2 percent more," he said. "Personnel is the most expenditures, followed by mandated services. But nothing says we have to grab money for this out of our pockets."

The levy calls for $15.16 million in regular levies which fund county government, which is 0.37 percent more than this year's levy. It also has $1.74 million in special levies, or debt service, which is 6.95 percent less than the 2010 levies.

The human services levy is $5.42 million, or $45,974 less than this year, a 0.84 percent cut. Several special levies also see significant changes. The $300,000 annual jail debt service levy goes off in 2011, and the Law Enforcement Center debt service levy drops from $350,000 to $50,000.

As a result, total revenues from all sources to county government are expected to total $54.22 million, down from $58.52 million this year. The biggest decrease there is in intergovernmental funds -- state and federal funds -- which drop from $27.53 million to $23.66 million.

"We're way ahead of a lot of jurisdictions in where we need to go and outcomes for services we purchase," said Commissioner Joe Vene. "It's better than many who are using SWAG -- scientific wild-ass guesses."

"We are still maintaining our level of services and we are not cutting services," said Commissioner Quentin Fairbanks.

County Administrator Tony Murphy said commissioners have been preparing budgets two years in advance, so this budget includes an outline for 2012. The current budget done last year included an outline for 2011.

"This budget anticipates "reduced funding from the state in a significant amount," he said. It also implements Strategy Aligned Management, a new county management tool used to base county services on outcomes.

Commissioners will meet with county department heads to discuss their budget requests during October and November, Murphy said. A public hearing on the budget and levy will be held 6 p.m. Nov. 30.

From this point, commissioners can lower the levy further but cannot raise it.

Y bswenson@bemidjipioneer.com

Not satisfied with a negative property tax increase, at least one Beltrami County commissioner said Tuesday he'd look for more cuts.

The Beltrami County Board approved Tuesday night a preliminary property tax levy for 2011 of $16.9 million, which is $73,513 or 0.43 percent less than the 2010 levy. The measure passed unanimously, with Commissioner Jim Lucachick absent.

"We are downsizing county government," said Commissioner Jim Heltzer. "We are down 45 positions. "Even though we are cutting, I do not want to cut the DWI Court."

The successful intense monitoring program for repeat drunken drivers isn't in the budget, but Heltzer vowed it would be before commissioners were done with budget work in late November.

"It will not go away quietly," Heltzer said, adding that he will still look for cuts beyond that program.

"I still will attempt to find ways to find lower expenditures - perhaps 1 to 2 percent more," he said. "Personnel is the most expenditures, followed by mandated services. But nothing says we have to grab money for this out of our pockets."

The levy calls for $15.16 million in regular levies which fund county government, which is 0.37 percent more than this year's levy. It also has $1.74 million in special levies, or debt service, which is 6.95 percent less than the 2010 levies.

The human services levy is $5.42 million, or $45,974 less than this year, a 0.84 percent cut. Several special levies also see significant changes. The $300,000 annual jail debt service levy goes off in 2011, and the Law Enforcement Center debt service levy drops from $350,000 to $50,000.

As a result, total revenues from all sources to county government are expected to total $54.22 million, down from $58.52 million this year. The biggest decrease there is in intergovernmental funds -- state and federal funds -- which drop from $27.53 million to $23.66 million.

"We're way ahead of a lot of jurisdictions in where we need to go and outcomes for services we purchase," said Commissioner Joe Vene. "It's better than many who are using SWAG -- scientific wild-ass guesses."

"We are still maintaining our level of services and we are not cutting services," said Commissioner Quentin Fairbanks.

County Administrator Tony Murphy said commissioners have been preparing budgets two years in advance, so this budget includes an outline for 2012. The current budget done last year included an outline for 2011.

"This budget anticipates "reduced funding from the state in a significant amount," he said. It also implements Strategy Aligned Management, a new county management tool used to base county services on outcomes.

Commissioners will meet with county department heads to discuss their budget requests during October and November, Murphy said. A public hearing on the budget and levy will be held 6 p.m. Nov. 30.

From this point, commissioners can lower the levy further but cannot raise it.

bswenson@bemidjipioneer.com

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