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Dave Olson, Published September 02 2009

Clay County unveils new round of budget cuts

After a spring and summer spent trimming costs and boosting fees, Clay County officials on Tuesday unveiled another round of cuts and fee changes that bring them $1.2 million closer to a balanced budget for 2010.

At this point, the county is still looking at a $237,352 shortfall if it plans to work within the $26.1 million levy limit imposed by the state.

If officials decide to give nonunion employees the same

2 percent cost-of-living increase union employees will receive in 2010, more than $550,000 must be found to balance the budget.

Potential sources for that money include mandatory work furloughs and/or special property tax levies the state allows counties to impose to make up for cuts in state aid.

Clay County Commission Chairman Jerry Waller said it’s unlikely tax increases alone will be used to balance the budget.

“Revenues for the next two or three years are going to keep going down,” said Waller, adding that he doesn’t believe county taxpayers should have to make up all of the difference.

Of the two dozen or so cuts proposed Tuesday, some of the heaviest fell on the Sheriff’s Department.

They include saving $57,493 by not filling a vacant deputy position and saving another $81,404 by not filling a vacancy that will be left by a retiring deputy.

Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said if the cuts are made, citizens in the county will feel them.

“It’s going to cut into the service we provide,” he said.

Officials said they will likely hammer out many details of the county’s preliminary tax levy at the Clay County Commission’s next meeting on Tuesday.

The preliminary levy must be passed by Sept. 15.

Waller said decisions about furloughs and special levies will have to be made before then.

Mandatory work furloughs for nonunion employees would save the county $415,182.

If union workers agree to furloughs, the county would save an additional $354,752.

Special levies could raise a total of $924,424.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555