WALKER -- The Cass County Board Tuesday discussed the 2003 budget.
That budget calls for levying the maximum increase the state will allow, though those figures are not expected to be available until about Sept. 1. Final board action will come after state figures are available.
The proposed budget calls for a 3.81 percent increase to $12,127,000 or $462,000 higher than the 2002 budget.
Based on proposed departmental requests, that still would leave Cass County with an anticipated $601,968 deficit at the end of 2003. Therefore, the budget committee will ask all departments requesting more than a 3.81 percent increase to further explain the higher costs they anticipate in 2003.
Commissioners expressed a reluctance to adopt a final budget projecting a deficit. The county board may accept this budget and levy level or reduce it after the December Truth in Taxation hearing, but may not increase it.
Law enforcement, probation, employee benefits and insurance are among the areas where costs are proposed to exceed the 3.81 percent increase. Costs for court administration, shifted to the state in the last two years, and county unallocated funds are areas where major decreases have been projected.
The board also wrestled with ways to finance a new jail facility, but still keep the current $560,000 debt service level.
Law enforcement/court additions to the current courthouse or construction at other locations has been estimated to cost the county anywhere from $7,500,000 to $25,800,000. The current debt service level is estimated to generate only $4,500,000.
Allen Brinkman of Minnesota Department of Corrections appeared before the board Tuesday. He reported many Minnesota counties face similar local jail challenges today. Some like Cass also are considering regional alternatives.
Felony driving while under the influence convicts remain an unknown factor for jail volumes counties will face, he said, noting it is unlikely these offenders will go to state facilities like other felony offenders.
DOC currently is recommending more use be made of electronic home monitoring.
The board voted to accept Brinkman's recommendation to engage a free National Institute of Corrections analysis of the maximum use the county can make of its existing jail facilities and potential alternate services.
The commissioners declined to act on a proposed cost estimate from Landecker and Associates forwarded from the city of Walker to prepare a cost estimate for moving utilities from beneath Michigan Avenue if the county should seek to close that street in Walker to expand county buildings from the courthouse complex to the current south parking lot. Engineering cost estimate is $5,800.
Also tabled was a proposal to amend the county capital improvement plan for new building construction over the next few years. Because the jail expansion is the next project on that proposed plan and, because construction does not currently seem to fit within the amount the commissioners wish to borrow, the plan itself was set on hold.
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