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County Commissioners cover budget over-runs

Several county offices had budget over-runs and the Haakon County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting on Wednesday, December 31, to approve severalcontingency transfers, that totalled $63,294.83, to cover the shortages.

The accounts and their over-run amounts are mentally ill, $395.97; jail, $13,530.98; sheriff, $5,650.38; election, $4,657.46; auditor, $7,719.07; director of equalization, $2,969.38; and courthouse building, $28,371.59 for a total of $63,294.83. The contingency fund had $75,000 in which to use for this purpose. The fund is set up for unforeseen budget shortfalls, but this year many of the offices were several thousand dollars past their proposed budgets. All accounts with employees saw an over-run in the insurance fund because of the double coverage in June.

The jail and mentally ill accounts are always hard to budget for, noted Chairman Neal Brunskill. Haakon County Auditor Pat Freeman said that the mentally ill account came in fairly close to the $5,000 that was budgeted, but the jail increase was due to a juvenile case. In past years, the account's spending had been less than the $10,000 that was budgeted.

The sheriff's office was over in six accounts. The insurance was over by $3,961.86 due to the double coverage and Deputy Mark Foley increasing his to the family option. Repairs and maintenance saw a $3,318.47 over-run from its $2,500 budget. Supplies budgeted were $4,500 and was over by $5,077.37. The sheriff's teletype service was $1,800. The office spent $1,255 more than the budgeted $20,000 in equipment.

The election fund was budgeted at $2,500. This amount is what is usually spent every two years, when there is not a general election. Added to the over-run was an increase of absentee voters. Absentee ballots cost more than regular ballots, in part because of the envelopes needed to mail to the voter and for him/her to mail them back. There were 210 absentee ballots this year, compared to the usual 40 to 50.

The auditor's office included a $999.01 deficit in salary from its $49,132, $59.84 in retirement; $123.44 in insurance; $3,956.77 in computer support, $167.03 in copier maintenance, $4,171.01 in supplies over the $2,500 budget and $250.43 in telephone. A large part of the supplies and computer support over-run is due to a new computer program developed by the state that the auditor's office had to purchase. The program also required the purchase of a laser printer, and its higher priced toner cartridges. Freeman noted she also had not originally budgeted enough in supplies as compared to the other second floor offices.

The director of equalization's office saw a deficit of $267.32 with its insurance. Professional fees over shot the $2,500 budget by $4,231.16; supplies $590.71 over the $9,000 budget; and telephone by $227.91.

The courthouse building fund had a large contingency transfer due to the purchase and installation of new heating/AC units. The commissioners had budgeted $12,000 for 2008. This amount was over shot by $67,186.06. The courthouse building fund's $38,814.47 was depleted to pay for part of the units. The remaining $28,371.59 had to be covered by the contingency transfer.

Brunskill reiterated to Freeman that the board would like to see monthly budget sheets for each office. He stated that the budget over-runs did not occur in the last month and they need to be watched more closely. He noted that he has asked for the sheets for the past six months.

The road and bridge fund was approved for an $147,594.96 automatic transfer from the Federal Emergency Management Agency funds. Their budget showed over-runs of $5,941.29 in repairs and maintenance's $60,000 budget; $115,485.49 in supplies $150,000 budget; $7,250 in gravel crushing's $150,000 budget; and $18,750 in automotive/major equipment's $31,000 budget.

The board was concerned with the $115,000 over-run in supplies and questioned if there was a clerical error and any large sum that had been used at one time. Freeman noted that she believed a lot of that amount was due to not only the high price of fuel but due to an increase in usage of fuel needed in running equipment to repair flood damage. Also, culverts were purchased and the highway department also had to hire a local contractor to help install some of the culverts.