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State impact on county's 2010 budget to be unveiled

Just how dire the state's budget woes will affect Beltrami County should become clearer Tuesday when a draft 2010 county budget is released.

"With the help of county departments and in accordance with the general directions given by the County Board work sessions, a proposed county budget for 2010-2011 has been prepared," County Administrator Tony Murphy states in a memo.

The budget is part of the County Board's regular agenda when it meets 5 p.m. Tuesday at the County Administration Building. The draft budget will be released then, along with Murphy giving an overview.

While the County Board must approve a preliminary property tax levy, based on the proposed budget, by Sept. 15, commissioners decided to also scope out a proposed 2011 budget because of the ramifications of the 2009 Legislature and Gov. Tim Pawlenty's unilateral effort at balancing the state's two-year budget.

The county's 2010 budget will have to do without an estimated $2.1 million in state aids.

Pawlenty unallotted $33 million this year in County Program Aid and $67 million in 2010. Beltrami County's County Program Aid loss is $253,451 this year and $514,582 in 2010.

Commissioners have met off and on throughout the summer in work sessions outside of their regular meeting day to set priorities for the county budget.

Murphy earlier this summer presented a list of more than 100 county services that aren't mandated by the state which could be eliminated or reduced, a list that commissioners fretted over for both 2010 and 2011 budgets.

Most important, they also are trying to shape county government into doing services that reach predetermined outcomes, using a Strategy-Aligned Management model led by Murphy.

Commissioners at their July 7 meeting unanimously approved a resolution that the county will not raise property taxes for activities and programs which have been created and mandated by the state without adequate state funding.

Commissioner Jim Heltzer, however, said he was leery because he didn't want to put the county into the same "no new taxes" position that has plagued Pawlenty.

"I don't want to raise property taxes," he said, "but I can't predict what is in the future."

Once a preliminary levy is set by Sept. 15, commissioners by law can only reduce it when finally certifying it in December.

The County Board also during its regular meeting will hold the first reading of a proposed county highway right-of-way encroachment policy.

Commissioners have discussed a policy for the last two meetings, and instructed County Highway Engineer Tyler Koos to incorporate the suggested changes into a policy that will now get a first reading on Tuesday.

"Along Beltrami County highways there are numerous locations where objects have been installed in the county right-of-way," Koos says in a memo to commissioners. "These objects can be a safety hazard to errant vehicles, consequently they also represent a significant liability to the county if one of these objects were to hit or someone were injured or killed in an accident."

The policy, of which the latest version will be released at the meeting Tuesday, should be developed to remove the hazardous objects from the county right-of-way, Koos said.

The board opens its 3 p.m. work session with a tour of the federal probation office renovated space in the old historic Courthouse.

Upon returning at 3:30 p.m. to the County Administration Building, commissioners will discuss building energy reduction priority projects. They will learn the results of a recent energy audit of county facilities.

Steve Shadrick, county Facilities Management Department director, will present proposed energy reducing, cost-effective projects with return on investment estimates, with the idea of lower future operational costs.

Commissioners will meet with Sheriff Phil Hodapp to receive an update on the activities of a regional radio board and decisions that the radio board may need to make. He'll also report on the current status of records management and the need to upgrade the system to realize operational savings.

Finally, commissioners will met with representatives of the Red River Basin Commission to receive an update on the commission's activities. The commission seeks Beltrami County input on the spring's flooding and other water issues.

The board's consent agenda for its regular meeting includes county bills and warrant payment listing, approval of unorganized township levies for road and fire protection services, and certify ditch benefit percentages.

Commissioners will be asked to approve a wetland technical evaluation panel review and recommendation on after-the-fact application by Samuel G. Klisch involving an access road to his Cottage Creek Estates common interest community.

Also, approval is sought for bids on a County Road 101 improvement project, a final pay voucher for milled rumble strips on several county roads and of a resolution for a formal grant request to replace a bridge on County Road 305.

The consent agenda includes Health and Human Services Department bills and receiving regular reports and licensing.