September 14, 2011

Commissioners looking at $60 million budget

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

McKenzie County has big changes in store for the 2012 proposed budget.
According to Linda Svihovec, McKenzie County auditor, the county is requesting a $36 million increase for next year’s budget, most of which is designated for roads.
In 2011, the county’s budget was $24 million, while this year’s proposed budget is $60 million.
For county roads and bridges alone, last year the county slated $10 million. For 2012, they are proposing to set aside $40 million.
“This year’s preliminary budget reflects the fact that the funding we are receiving from various sources related to oil and gas development is not keeping up with the impacts we are currently experiencing,” states Svihovec.
Roads are not the only department impacted by the oil and gas industry, which is why the two other major budged increases are slated for the Sheriff’s Department and Social Services.
“Almost every department in the county has had to add staff to deal with the additional demands, with the largest budget increases affecting the Road and Bridge Department, Sheriff’s Department and Social Services,” Svihovec reports.
The 2011 budget appropriated $921,000 to the Sheriff’s Department and $816,000 to the Department of Social Services. This year the Sheriff’s Department’s proposed budget shows an increase of nearly $500,000 and the Department of Social Services budget is requesting an increase of $180,000.
The Department of Social Services has had to add social workers and eligibility workers to meet the state requirements for their increased caseload.
While the state hasn’t mandated a deputy to population ratio, the fact remains that as population increases, so should the number of deputies we have available in McKenzie County. Especially, with the recent increase in traffic incidents.
The Sheriff’s Department is also in the early phases of remodeling the county’s Law Enforcement Center. Something that has been needed, but can’t be put off any longer.
The increase in the year’s proposed county budget may seem scary for taxpayers. However, the county expects the bulk of the proposed $35 million increase to come from state oil and gas impact funds, leaving just over $1 million to fall on taxpayers’ shoulders.
This is, of course, a proposed budget and has not yet been approved. It is an estimate and is for informational purposes. It may be subject to revisions when all the required information is available.