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Carlton County faces another $396,927 in budget cuts

The pencils have been sharpened for some time now, but it appears Carlton County will have to slash yet another $396,927 from its 2010 budget. According to Finance Chairman Mike Stafford, the county has already made some $500,000 in budget cuts t...

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The pencils have been sharpened for some time now, but it appears Carlton County will have to slash yet another $396,927 from its 2010 budget.

According to Finance Chairman Mike Stafford, the county has already made some $500,000 in budget cuts this year, but additional state unallotments require the county dig a whole lot deeper.

Stafford said the finance committee met last Friday and determined that the cuts should be distributed over the majority of the county departments based on the percentage of revenue received.

The list of suggested cuts was distributed this week, and Stafford said department heads will be expected to commit to specific amounts in writing and come up with a plan for how to achieve them.

Though Stafford recognized that additional cuts will create hardships for many departments, he acknowledged there are two that may not realistically be able to reach the targeted goals. He said General Operations, which includes day-to-day expenses such as paying the light bill and purchasing gas for county vehicles, may not be negotiable at certain levels.

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Likewise, he said, Community Corrections may no longer have adequate "wiggle room" to make cuts to the extent suggested, since some expenses are non-negotiable, such as the cost of boarding prisoners outside the county when space is no longer available in the local jail. Sheriff Kelly Lake said last week the county had to board 20 prisoners elsewhere. At an average total cost of some $30,000 a month, she said that alone can eat away at the department budget in short order.

On a positive note, Stafford said the county has been exploring means to achieve some additional revenue to help offset whatever cuts can't be met, and Carlton County Economic Development Director Pat Oman added that he is exploring numerous grant opportunities as potential funding sources.

"If we are able to do this by the end of the year [cut the $396,927], we solve the problem," said Stafford. "If not, it becomes a fund balance issue."

In other business to come before the board, commissioners unanimously agreed to entertain proposals for providing fire protection services for Sawyer Township. Stafford explained the county currently has a contract with the city of Carlton to provide fire coverage for that township, but he said the Cloquet Fire District has expressed interest in being considered for the job when the current contract runs out in 2012.

Commissioners also approved applying for a grant that would help fund the establishment of a Small Business Development Center in the county. According to Oman, such a center would help provide loan packaging, business expansion assistance and funding or staff to do the required work. He said the nearest such center is in Duluth, with others located in Mora and Brainerd, resulting in a "big gap" for local businesses seeking development assistance.

The grant would require a one-to-one match, which Oman said would range from $175,000 to $355,000 and would come from the county's Economic Development Fund.

Finally, the board voted to cancel the remaining county land sale for 2010. Land Commissioner Greg Bernu explained that when Governor Pawlenty vetoed the Fish and Game Bill in the closing moments of the legislative session, he took down the Omnibus Land Bill along with it, since the two were combined into one this year.

In so doing, Bernu said the county lost the availability of almost half of its prospective land parcels, explaining that any having more than 150 feet of shoreline along a body of water would have required the land bill be passed in order to sell them.

Related Topics: CARLTON COUNTYFINANCE
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