County debates utility cash
The county finance committee heard requests for amendments to the 2009 budget proposed Oct. 10 by Administrator Craig Knutson. The $173.6 million budget includes a single payment from the American Transmission Co. for a transmission line that will be constructed across the county in 2009.
Parks committee Chairman Kurt Yankee asked that the $1.8 million be allocated to parks and conservation programs. He also asked for $42,000 to change the parks community coordinator position from a 16-hour to a 32-hour per week position.
The state allows counties to spend utility payments, such as the $1.8 million, on parks and open space programs as counties see fit, Knutson said. To spend it on other programs, the county must get permission, he said.
Knutson proposes using part of the $1.8 million—rather than tax dollars—to cover the operating costs for the parks and conservation departments in 2009. He proposes spreading the rest of the money around to other departments.
Taking the parks and conservation departments off the tax levy helps "shoehorn" the budget into a stretched-thin levy, Knutson said.
Yankee said it looks like the American Transmission Co. money is being used to replace county sales tax dollars, which Knutson has been using for operating costs and as a savings account for future capital projects.
Knutson estimates the county will earn $10 million in sales tax in 2009. He proposes putting $5.8 million of that for improvements to the county jail and health care complex.
The full county board will discuss the budget at 9 a.m. Monday. The board will hold a public hearing 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5. The finance committee will meet again Thursday, Nov. 6, and the board could take action on the budget on Wednesday, Nov. 12.