Steps confront cuts in state aid
The Clay County Commission took steps Tuesday to confront a steep drop in state aid that is expected to get worse in the coming year. The county learned in December it would have to get by without $415,000 in revenue that had been expected from t...
The Clay County Commission took steps Tuesday to confront a steep drop in state aid that is expected to get worse in the coming year.
The county learned in December it would have to get by without $415,000 in revenue that had been expected from the state of Minnesota.
The situation is likely to worsen by midyear, when the county gets its next shot of state aid.
To deal with the cuts, the commission decided Tuesday that board review is required before vacant positions are filled.
Other possible measures in the offing:
- Early retirement incentives for eligible employees.
- Implementing a day off, or days off, during the year without pay, as other counties in the state are contemplating.
- Instituting a 10-hour/four-day work week.
- Consolidating services with other counties.
- Using undesignated fund balances.
- Layoffs (a last resort).
The board said an early step will be to solicit ideas from county employees on how to curb costs.
Commissioner Jon Evert said he does not favor across-the-board cuts that demand all departments to reduce their budgets by a given percentage. "I think that's a mistake," he said.
Evert said Clay County should watch closely what happens in Olmsted County, where the county board has authorized the county administrator to ask workers to take up to eight hours of unpaid leave each month.
For now, the rule applies only to nonunion workers, who make up one-third of the county's 1,200 employees.
However, the county is aiming to make sure all employees are treated fairly, said Mary Callier, associate county administrator.
She said worker response has been along the lines of: "Days off are better than layoffs."
The potential savings for nonunion employees alone could be $1.3 million, Callier said.
Clay County Commission Chairman Jerry Waller said using reserves to fill budget gaps "should not even be on the table" for at least the next six months.
In other business, the commission endorsed a cost-sharing plan aimed at covering a more than $150,000 budget shortfall at the West Central Regional Juvenile Center in Moorhead for 2008.
Barry Steen, the center's director, said the facility had projected it would serve an average of 19 juveniles a day last year, but the number was closer to 16.
He said one contributing factor might be that a small number of judges outside of Clay County have been opting not to send juveniles to the center and are instead ordering home detention.
To make up for the shortfall in funding, the 13 counties served by the center are being asked to share the cost.
On top of that, Steen said the per diem charge counties are being asked to pay will go from $185 per juvenile per day to $195.
The cost to Clay County for helping cover the one-time shortfall will be $59,000. The additional cost from the per diem increase is expected to be $23,700.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555