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Wadena commissioners cut $330,000 from 2015 budget

After another three and a half hours of work on Sept. 15, Wadena County commissioners were able to identify about $330,000 that could be cut from the budgets for 2015 proposed by department heads in August.

The discussions among commissioners were intense and focused. Although Board Chairman Bill Stearns was out of town and could not attend the meeting, the remaining four commissioners left no stone unturned as they plowed through 50 pages of budget information line by line. Vice Chairman Ron Noon led the discussion.

By the end of the Sept. 15 special board meeting, the four commissioners had agreed by consensus to make the following cuts, after conferring with the department heads affected:

• $63,705, offered by Sheriff Carr from the Sheriff's Department budget.

• $50,000 from the Information Technology budget from salaries and other line items.

• $25,000 from the Elections budget, earmarked for new voting machines.

• $40,000 from the County Attorney's budget, by pro-rating salary needs for two new personnel likely to be hired in the first and third quarters of 2015.

• $66,869 from Social Services, designated for computer equipment purchases, to be taken instead from Social Services reserve funds.

• $45,000 from the Highway Department, for expenses to be covered instead by the Highway cash balance.

• $10,500 from the County Assessor's budget, designated for a state-required new computer software system, by paying for it in 2014 instead of 2015.

• $38,499 from the County Auditor/Treasurer's Office, designated for a new accountant to fill a vacancy.

The county's budget shortfall for 2015 now stands at about $218,000, which would mean a 2.8 percent increase in the property tax levy. Commissioners have to vote on a preliminary levy amount this month. That vote will come soon at a county board meeting.

Commissioners indicated that they were not finished with their budget cutting and will continue to work on the 2015 budget for the next three months, until the final 2014 pay 2015 levy amount must be set in December.