WALKER - Cass County Board Thursday set the final 2009 budget and levy, a customary action for late December, but added action this year to reconvene the county budget committee immediately.
That committee, comprised of five appointed county residents, selected key financial department heads and two county commissioners, will begin immediately to look for ways to cut expenditures from the 2009 approved budget to offset expected state funding cuts.
The $19,985,613 county levy set Thursday anticipated the county would receive $863,957 during 2009 from state program aid to counties. If the state decides its financial shortfall prevents distributing that money to Cass, the county would have to find offsetting cuts within the approved 2009 county budget.
State-mandates prevent the county from levying more than this level, which the county certified to the state in September.
The 2009 budget the county approved calls for receiving $50,073,056 revenue during 2009 and expending $49,443,337.
Any shortfall in state or other revenue would mean the county would have to cut expenses from the budget and/or spend down the county's fund balance. The county carries a fund balance to cover operations until property tax receipts are collected in May and October each year.
Unless the county cuts expenses to offset reduced or eliminated state payments, the county could run the risk of running out of operating capital before May.
Thursday, the board instructed Planning Commission Chairman Mike Wetzel to consult with the environmental services department about whether the number of Planning Commission and Board of Adjustment meetings during winter months can be cut from monthly to every other month or eliminated until March or April.
Wetzel said the county receives few requests for permits during the winter, and most of those projects are not constructed until the ground thaws in the spring.
County Engineer David Enblom, who had planned to ask the board to authorize ordering in 2008 new equipment approved for his department in the 2009 budget to save costs, instead asked the board to table his capital expenditures until more is known about state funding cuts.
The board did set mileage paid to county employees for use of their own vehicles when no county vehicle is available at the 2009 standard IRS rate of 55 cents per mile and at a diminished county rate of 27 cents per mile when a county vehicle is available.
Citizens appointed to county committees will be paid the same per diem rates as commissioners, $75 per day.
The county will pay employees in 2009 $39 per day meals and incidental expenses, generally only for travel outside the county and when an overnight stay is involved. That rate increases to $44 per day for Olmsted County, $49 per day for St. Louis or Dakota County and $64 per day for Hennepin and Ramsey counties.
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