At its December 11 meeting at the Pine County Courthouse in Pine City, the Pine County Board of Commissioners approved several measures connected with budget issues for 2013. County Administrator David Minke outlined four areas that needed attention: property tax levy, county budget, 2013 wages for elected officials and non-union pay scale. In discussion, the board quickly passed the property tax levy at $14,075,000. This is the same amount presented at the Truth in Taxation hearing, and it is the same as was adopted for the 2012 budget; in fact, the levy has been the same in Pine County since 2010.
The board then approved the county budget for 2013 with projected revenues at $39,470,683 and expenditures at $38,766,559. The matter of wages for elected officials brought some discussion. It was proposed that there be no change in salary for county commissioners; that the county attorney salary would increase 1.5 percent to $99,361, noting that there was an increase of 5.4 percent in 2012 for this position; the salary for the county auditor would increase to $80,000, noting that combining the positions of auditor/treasurer was working well and has saved the county money by eliminating the treasurer position; and increasing the county sheriff salary by 1.5 percent to $81,200, noting that this position had a 13 percent increase in 2012. Commissioner Mitch Pangerl said that he felt these increases would put the county over budget, and suggested that either the levy go up or the wages should be frozen. Commissioner Doug Carlson said, "We've been frugal. We're cutting it close, but there are some people who hold the county together." After a roll-call vote, the board approved the wages for elected officials by a vote of 4-1 with Pangerl voting nay. A motion was approved to increase the non-union pay scale 1.5 percent and to grant non-union employees a 1.5 percent COLA effective January 1, 2013. An exception was made in the grade E82 (health and human services director and public works director/county engineer) where minimum and maximum pay was increased by 8 percent to account for market conditions. According to Minke, this was discussed at the November 28 Budget Committee meeting.
In other business: The board reappointed Kelly Schroeder as Pine County assessor. She was approved for this position for the period of January 1, 2013, to December 31, 2016. Schroeder has now been with the county for nine months.
The board approved a resolution for the acquisition of property for highway purposes. The project, identified as SAP 58-641-15, would have the county reconstruct and improve a portion of County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 41 located between 1 mile east of Maple Road and 1.5 miles west and north of Maple Road. Improvements would consist of widening, re-aligning, and reconstruction of the roadway and surfacing. Certain lands (new right-of-way) would be required to construct the project. Since no agreement has been reached with the landowner after ongoing negotiations, the board proposes to begin condemnation proceedings. The board was told this would probably take about four months, but County Attorney John Carlson cautioned that a six-month period would be more realistic. In discussion, the board was told that the landowner has a right to get his own attorney in this matter. County Engineer Mark LeBrun pointed out that the value of the land was in dispute. He said that the land is not commercial and it is not wooded.
The board approved a cooperative agreement with the city of Pine City on a project identified as SAP 58-608-17 for improvements involving reconstruction of CSAH 8 from CSAH 61 to CSAH 65. The county and the city will split the costs of the project in a mutually agreed upon matter.