Stark County budget approvedStark County commissioners approved the 2012 budget after receiving a few guiding words during a Tuesday morning meeting at the Stark County Courthouse.
Stark County commissioners approved the 2012 budget after receiving a few guiding words during a Tuesday morning meeting at the Stark County Courthouse.
The total 2011 county budget is set at $14.7 million, which is a bump up from $14.06 million in 2010.
Stark County Auditor Kay Haag said that all departments received the same number of mills, except for Social Services, which dropped 3.75 mills.
“There are fewer mills, but they are worth more,” Haag said, adding that one mill amounts to about $74,000 this year compared to $66,000 last year.
Commissioner Duane Wolf said that recent legislation allowed for more school funds, which lowered costs to the counties.
“That is really where our savings came in,” he said.
The total approved levy for 2011 is nearly $8 million.
Sen. George Nodland and Veteran’s Service Officer Leslie Ross were the only participants at the public hearing.
Both commented about the general budgeting process, while leaving out critiques of specific line items.
“We are planning for a future we never imagined, so budgeting and planning becomes a real obstacle,” Ross said.
She suggested working on the budget year-round and avoiding the “acts” prior to the preliminary hearings.
“Get all the primary players involved and you have buy-in at every level and it is not a surprise,” Ross said. “Not only can we help ourselves move forward with limited and scarce resources in a completely dynamic environment, it allows planners to act responsibly with consideration to constituencies.”
Nodland spoke about Measure 2, which is on the primary ballot in June and would eliminate property tax.
He said the measure would put the state in charge and would likely lead to consolidation of county governments and schools.
“There is some strong momentum in that area, and as a state senator I have concern on how we are going to handle that,” he said.
Chairman Ken Zander agreed.
“Quite honestly, it frightens me,” he said. “I see total chaos.”
Nodland said that the public has the misconception of an excessive amount of state money. He said there was $978 million at the end of last biennium, but most of the money will be tied up in emergency repairs and response to flooding problems throughout the state.
Infrastructure woes in western North Dakota will also eat up much of the revenue, Nodland said.
“We are at a critical point in the oil infrastructure right now,” he said, adding that Stark County oil activity is in “slow motion” compared to counties farther north and road bypasses might have a heavy price tag.
Wolf was concerned that Stark County didn’t get its fair share during the last oil impact distribution.
“We go from $4 million to $100 million (in oil impact grants) and Stark County got nothing,” he said. “We have the impact and we don’t have the oil production and we get nothing. That just doesn’t seem right.”
Wolf added after the meeting that many of the oil operations have employees that are living in Stark County communities, but working in other counties.
“Money follows the oil, and the oil doesn’t come out of the ground until after the impact,” Nodland said. “That is the sad part of it.”