December 5, 2013 | Volume 118, Issue No. 49

Staffing needs considered in budget discussion

The Carlton County Board of Commissioners are working through a new budget for 2014 as some surrounding counties vow to not increase the levy at all. The State Legislature has capped levy increases to 6.5 percent. That level is not being considered in Carlton County.

Commissioner Dick Brenner said, "A 1.68 percent levy increase was first proposed, but I think we can bring in a much lower figure. The question to ask is what is the clear figures on new revenue from such sources as the State Legislature? It is hard to even consider a final budget framework until all additional revenue figures are considered."

The department heads have come to the Finance Committee and board members with their budget concerns. The Technology Department, which oversees new computer programs, technology maintenance, and such areas as the county phone service, has six employees with two dedicated to Health and Human Services specifically. Talks have gone on to consolidate the services in one department. Comparable salaries is an issue. Current employees are represented by two different unions. Some thought has been given to make Tech Department employees confidential and thus non-union members. No decision has been made at this time.

County Coordinator Dennis Genereau has promoted a plan to hire a human resources manager to handle labor relations, employee compensation issues, comparable worth, employee training, benefit administration, hiring assistance, and personnel issues, to name a few. A special projects and media relations specialist would need to be hired in his proposal. Costs are projected to run from $126,000 to perhaps $150,000.

Genereau commented, "The integrity of the present system is very questionable. The existing process was put in place in the 1980s and implemented in the 1990s. Major human resource issues are not being adequately addressed at this time. Evaluating employees for performance is not consistent in the County workforce." The need for a human resources manager came out of an earlier, summer staff brainstorming session with participating county commissioners to set goals for county government.

Commissioner Brenner explained, "The problem with any decision in the human resources area is that it would make a sizeable impact on the proposed levy. This proposal would commit about three-fourths of a percent of our current levy for this need. Will it avoid difficulties in other areas later which would also cost us in the long run? I think so."

Genereau explained, "There are counties in Minnesota of comparable size where Carlton County's two employees for these duties are covered by 4.27 employees there." No board action has been taken at this time.

The Tech Department announced that a GIS and mapping site will be available on the county website by the end of the year. It was explained that it will act as a digital plat book, in time replacing the hard copy most have used up to this time.

The University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs announced that Carlton County has been the overall winner of the 2013 Local Government Innovation Award in the county category for its work on the TXT4Life (Text for Life) program. This program provides early intervention in cases of teen suicide through a suicide prevention hotline. A $10,000 check and a professionally produced video of the program will be awarded.

Dave Lee, Director of Health and Human Services, and his staff addressed programs provided which give residents in need incentives to work. In the ensuing discussion and presentation it was noted that 3,000 people in Carlton County get food support assistance.

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