It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t always pretty, but the Crow Wing County Board’s finished product of the 2012 budget is one deserving of commendation.
The board reduced the tax levy by 2.37 percent compared to 2011. County Administrator Tim Houle, who served in a similar position in Morrison County, said it was the first time in his county government career where budget requests from department heads were for reductions. This is a clear sign the board, county department heads and staff get it. They know economic hardships Crow Wing County residents are feeling and they did their best to obtain necessary revenue without imposing a burden on taxpayers.
The budget was approved by a 3-1 vote with Chairman Paul Thiede casting the only dissenting vote, stating that the county could do a little more to ease the tax burden.
Also commendable were the board’s efforts to move away from an automatic wage step system where people are paid as years progress but without a link to performance. Instead the county is moving toward a performance based pay system, a concept that should be met with whole-hearted agreement from county taxpayers. Although longevity pay will continue for some employees, it applies only to those hired before Jan. 1, 1989. Approximately 50 people of a staff of 415 are eligible for longevity pay.
Elected officials and government employees receive their share of criticism, but this is an occasion when the public should applaud them for their diligent efforts.