October 10, 2012

County adopts $95.8 million budget for 2013

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

As a result of unprecedented growth in McKenzie County with an increased demand for county services, the McKenzie County Commissioners have approved a final budget of just under $96 million for 2013.
The 2013 McKenzie County Budget is almost double that of the previous year and includes most of the requests in the preliminary budget. The two major changes in the approved budget have to do with the courthouse building and county and Social Services employees.
According to Linda Svihovec, McKenzie County auditor, there was a request in the 2013 Preliminary Budget for $5 million for building maintenance and construction, which included $3 million for an addition to the McKenzie County Courthouse. That request was denied, taking $3 million out of the preliminary budget.
“We have been running out of room, but will do our best to make use of every available space in this building,” states Svihovec. “The commissioners approved funding the design and engineering for the addition. That way, if there is money available in next year’s budget, we already have a plan in place.”
Svihovec states that this year’s budget appropriated $2 million, instead of the requested $5 million in order to obtain a design as well as maintain the current building for another year.
The next big change in the 2013 budget from what was originally requested has to do with salaries for county employees and McKenzie County Social Services workers.
“The state mandates a salary range for its social service workers and we are required to follow that pay scale. Many of our Social Services employees have been working for a long time and need to be brought up to midpoint in the state’s merit pay system. To do that, we had to give employees a 10 percent raise, instead of the five percent raise that was initially requested,” Svihovec states. “When we researched this issue, we also found that other oil and gas producing counties were not competitive and were giving their employees a 10 percent raise as well.”
Most everything else in the preliminary budget was approved, including the additional $50 million to the county road and bridge fund.
“This is still based on the anticipated impact grants from the state, as well as an increase in the amount of oil and gas production tax funds that come back to the county,” states Svihovec. “If we don’t receive those funds, we will start making cuts in the road and bridge department. But for now, we are hopeful that we will get enough money from the state to accomplish all the projects in this department for the 2013 year.”
According to Svihovec, while the county hasn’t approved valuations yet, she expects utility valuations to double, which will help taxpayers all the more with the county’s portion of this year’s property tax bill.
In total, the county requested a preliminary budget of $98,644,356 and approved a final budget of $95,826,310. McKenzie County is expecting $94,432,390 to be paid through various funds, including energy impact grants, fees generated from overweight vehicles, building permits and landfill fees. The amount anticipated to be paid by McKenzie County taxpayers is $1,393,920.