October 12, 2011

Commissioners shave $7 million from budget

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

Last year seemed to catch everyone off-guard. From the winter lasting too long, with record snowfall, to a late, wet spring bringing more water than North Dakota has seen in 20 years. All of these conditions, plus an exploding oil economy put a huge strain on McKenzie County residents and county officials.
Fortunately, McKenzie County made it through, and county officials have braced themselves for what may lie ahead.
At the county commissioners meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 4, the McKenzie County Commissioners approved a $53.4 million budget for 2012, which is more than double the  previous year’s budget of $24.4 million.
Although this year’s budget is more than double that of last year’s, only 2.3 percent or $1,212,626 will be funded by property taxes.
“The largest increase in the budget compared to last year was for the Road and Bridge Fund, which was $9.8 million last year compared to $36.6 million for 2012,” states Linda Svihovec, McKenzie County auditor.
That is more than triple the amount of money put aside for road and bridge projects the year before.
While most of the road and bridge projects will be funded by oil and gas impact grant funds and production tax revenues, according to Svihovec, $300,000 will still have to be funded by property taxes. And it still won’t be enough to get everything they need done.
“We just don’t have the money,” says Svihovec. “And we can’t levy enough to get it, so we have to put those projects on hold.”
What they are doing, instead, is increasing the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Department budget, which went from $1.4 million to $1.95 million for 2012.
“Most of the increase for the Sheriff’s Department will be used to fund five additional deputies,” states Svihovec. “Two of those deputies will be dedicated to truck regulatory duties.”
Svihovec states that dedicating more deputies to weighing and regulating semis will help control the impact the oil and gas industry has had on the roads; hopefully, helping our roads to last longer and need less fixing year to year.
Svihovec also reports that the county commissioners approved 3.6 percent across-the-board salary increases for employees and a six percent increase to health insurance premiums.
While the county commissioners have ratified a budget that puts McKenzie County ahead for the coming year, not everything the county was hoping to accomplish was approved.
“The approved budget is nearly $7 million under what was requested in the preliminary budget,” states Svihovec.
Those projects that were put on hold were $1.5 million toward the renovation of the law enforcement center, some new equipment purchases for the Road and Bridge Department, a new shop for the Cartwright Road and Bridge Department location, and some road and bridge projects that were put on hold for the coming year.
The 2012 budget will be published with the October 2011 minutes in the McKenzie County Farmer. Svihovec also states that the final budget numbers are available in the auditor’s office for anyone wanting to take a look at them.