County board approves budget, reflects on 2012

The 2013 budget and 2014 long-term plan were both adopted on Dec. 11 at the Carver County Board meeting.

The difference between the 2012 and 2013 budget is a decrease of $9 million. The lower 2013 budget reduces the county’s portion of property taxes on average-value homes.

In lieu of increasing operational costs and funding capital projects, the budget called for cuts. The county’s capital outlay expenditure has been decreased by nearly half (down to $12 million from $21 million), after numerous projects that were funded by one-time state funds and grants were completed this last year.

The Board also approved the 2014 long-term plan during the Dec. 11 session. The plan zeroes in on areas that will impact future property tax budgets and levy.
County Administrator David Hemze said the budget is impressive in the way it kept services in tact at the same operating level, while still making the $9 million in cuts.

“The environment we’re in now, coming out of the Great Recession, is obviously extremely difficult,” Hemze said. “[But] overall, it’s a pretty good package.”

The County is focusing more on looking ahead rather than looking back, Hemze said, adding that hopefully the economic recovery will continue.

“I think we have to deal with certain variables that are handed to us and fortunately, it looks like we’re moving towards more of an expansion mode, which makes the budgetary process easier,” he said.

Commissioner Gayle Degler (District 1) said the county is planning for future expenditures, such as the 101 Bridge/“Y” project, and feels the 2013 budget is solid.

“I feel it is a straight forward budget,” Degler said. “No frills, while addressing our immediate needs and concerns.”

Degler said the County continues to be “wise stewards” of its financial resources.

At the Dec. 18 regular session, the 2012 retirees of the county were recognized.

Eight individuals, hailing from five departments, have given the county more than 200 years of service. In 2012, the Community Social Services Division said farewell to Dave Chirpich (27 years), Dr. James Rudolph (21 years), and Joy Vivian (19 years). From the Sheriff’s Office, Larry King (33 years) and Linda Mueller (29 years) retired. Tom Dauwalter, of Public Works, gave 37 years to Carver County and retired this year. Hitting the 10-year mark and also retiring in 2012 was Mary Lundahl of Public Health.

At the same session, resolutions setting the county attorney and sheriff’s 2013 compensation, along with the compensation for the commissioners were approved. County Attorney Mark Metz and Sheriff Jim Olson will both have their salaries set at $127,000, as voted by the commissioners. The board also voted to increase the salaries of the commissioners by 1.75 percent, totaling $44, 105. This increase comes after two years of commissioner-voted salary decreases.

Board Chair James Ische also presented the 2012 year in review at the Dec. 18 session. In the last 12 months, Carver County has accomplished many goals and projects. A few included: voting on new commissioner districts, opening the Express Library in Mayer, working towards becoming a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon community (to be completed in 2013), hosting the Governor’s Fishing Opener on Lake Waconia, implementing aquatic invasive species prevention programs, and reconstructing not only Highway 5 through Victoria, but also Highways 30 and 33 in New Germany. The County also completed numerous park and trail projects, including purchasing the last piece of the Lake Waconia Regional Park.

In conjunction with the Sheriff’s Office, the county also continued its prescription drug take-back program and since the program’s inception, it has collected over 689 pounds of unwanted medications. The County also recently received $29 million for the reconstruction of the Highway 101 bridge between Shakopee and Chanhassen (scheduled for 2014).

The Carver County Board will reconvene at the 2013 organizational session on Jan. 8 at 9:00 a.m.