YM County to grapple with deficit spending

GRANITE FALLS – The Yellow Medicine County Board was shown the first draft of the county’s budget for 2014 on Tuesday and voted to increase the tax levy by the statutory limit of 3.4 percent.

Yellow Medicine County Finance Director Michelle May presented budget figures to the commissioners, showing a projected budget deficit of $830,000 with a zero percent levy raise, and a deficit of $530,000 if the levy was raised by 3.4 percent, the maximum allowed counties by the state Department of Revenue. Once set, the levy raise cannot be increased but may be decreased by law.

“This is with the current budget,” May said. “It’s not final, we still have union negotiations and insurance adjustments.”

County expenses for 2013 totaled $17 million and are projected to be about $16.8 million for 2014. The budget deficit in 2013 was $335,000.

County Administrator Peg Heglund said that she and the commissioners would be searching for ways to cut county expenditures from now until final budget approval in December.

In a separate action, the board approved a .0185 percent levy on taxable property for the Housing and Redevelopment Authority of Yellow Medicine County. The HRA funds rental assistance programs in the county and sent the budget item over only a day before the board meeting.

The measure passed unanimously but with a proviso suggested by Commissioner Gary Johnson that a letter be sent to HRA Acting Executive Director David Hendrickson telling him never to send over a budget request on such short notice again, specifying budget requests be sent at least two weeks in advance of a board meeting.

The board voted to approve a Minnesota Department of Veteran’s Affairs grant in the amount of $7,500 to be used for veterans’ outreach, reintegration of combat veterans into society and reduce homelessness among veterans.

The board also voted to approve the sheriff’s department request to hire Michael Jenson as deputy sheriff, effective Sept. 3.