Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Shawn Jansen
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Pine County enters preliminary budget talks


September 13, 2018

Pine County’s personnel costs seem to be driving the 2019 budget. The Pine County commissioners have been reviewing proposed budgets submitted by the various departments for 2019 over the past few weeks. Predictably, salary and insurance costs are the main expenditures department heads are looking to increase across the board, while holding the line on other departmental spending, with a few exceptions.

Sheriff’s department

Sheriff Jeff Nelson submitted a 24 percent proposed increase for 2019, some of which is for increased staffing and some for staff already acquired this year. Nelson is looking to add two sergeants, one for the jail and one for patrol. Nelson is also exploring purchasing squad and body cameras.

On the revenue side, Nelson projected an increase in boarding fees based on the usage of the Pine County jail this year, from $200,000 to $300,000. These fees brought in $164,307 the first half of this year.

According to Rod Williamson, jail administrator, at their last inspection, the Department of Corrections recommended the county add back the sixth sergeant for increased jail supervision. Because the state is seeing an increase in suicides and assaults, they are recommending some added preventative measures such as well-being reviews, and a revised classification system.

The county used to have a sixth sergeant in the jail, said Williamson in a phone interview Monday. The additional sergeant would also help reduce the need for overtime, help the jail be safer and allow staff to run things more efficiently, added Nelson. Administrator David Minke said in an email Tuesday, when the sergeant position was eliminated, the county created an intake officer position, so there was some savings on the salary, but the FTE count in the jail did not change.

Nelson also included an estimate for squad and body cameras in the 2019 budget. He said in a phone interview Monday Pine County officers do not wear body cameras nor have them in their squad cars. Nelson explained that cameras in squad cars are an industry standard, while body cameras are up-and-coming.

Although he has discussed the possibility of cameras before, Nelson said this is the first time he has included the estimate in the budget. Whether or not the department goes through with outfitting the department fully or incrementally will depend on what the final budget allows. He said once he knows it is possible, he will get bids for the project.

Finally, Administrator David Minke explained on the phone Friday the 2019 sheriff’s department budget reflects the fixing of a $50,000 mistake with regard to overtime in last year’s budget.

Information technology

The county’s information technology (IT) needs for 2019 include increases in service maintenance agreements and programs for a number of departments; server, software and software licensing upgrades including completing the transition to Windows 10; server reconfiguration and wireless system upgrades; and the setting up the systems in the Sandstone buildings as the North Pine Government Center is built and departments are moved around upon its completion.

According to the budget proposal submitted by IT Manager, Ryan Findell, there will be an estimated cost increase of $91,581, or 11 percent from 2018.

Buildings, roads, bridges

Public Works Director and County Engineer Mark LeBrun submitted a budget proposal that included increasing the 2019 proposed levy $91,903 for building maintenance and $120,000 for roads and bridges. Those amounts would fund the following: adding two full-time staff (a building maintenance worker and public works project engineer; the engineer would be hired next fall to reduce the levy impact); vehicle and equipment purchases of five marked squad cars, six fleet vehicles and one motor grader; and salary and insurance increases for 36 current staff.

LeBrun also proposed a balance of $75,000 be maintained in a building fund with an anticipated balance of $25,000 at the end of 2019.

Solid waste

Pine County will be opening a permanent transfer station in Willow River in 2019 once the purchase of land from the Department of Natural Resources is finalized. Though the budget shows an increase for that, the costs for its startup next year will be covered by a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency grant said Kelly Schroeder, land services director, in a phone conversation Monday. In addition, the solid waste budget is being reorganized by programs to better identify the costs associated with the household hazardous waste facility, the Willow River transfer station and the recycling program. The county contracts with PHASE to provide the recycling services.

More budget talks are scheduled. The county board will meet at 10 a.m. at the Pine County Courthouse in Pine City on Wednesday, September 12, as a committee of the whole to discuss the preliminary budget and tax levy for 2019.

The budget will also be the topic of a committee of the whole meeting following the board’s regular meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, September 18, at the Pine County Historical Museum in Askov.


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