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County Commission adjusts 2013 budget with 5-mill increase

The Stutsman County Commission adjusted some elements of its tentative 2013 budget at its Thursday meeting, including the percentage of its cost-of-living increase.

If that tentative budget is passed, it would mean a levy increase of $959,840 -- including an increase of more than 5 mills.

"The only increase in the mill levy is because of health insurance and retirement," said Casey Bradley, the county's auditor/chief operating officer.

The total budgeted levy for the county is $8.2 million, which includes the budgets for all the entities that tax through the county but have their own boards that set their own mill levies, such as the Stutsman County Water Resource Board, the James River Valley Library System and the James River Senior and Community Center.

That's an increase of $959,840 compared to the 2011 budget of $7.2 million.

Part of the increase comes from the value of a mill changing from $66,743 to $72,731 as the total taxable value of the county increased.

The rest comes from an overall increase in the number of mills the county will levy, from 114.43 to more than 119 mills.

Of the $959,840 increase since 2011, $135,000 comes from the entities that set their own levies.

Much of the rest of the increase can be traced to the county's payroll, which the commissioners discussed at their Thursday meeting.

They agreed eligible county employees would receive step increases in pay -- generally about a 2 percent raise -- as well as a 1 percent cost-of-living increase in pay. The other 1 percent is the increase in benefits, meaning that employees would receive a 4 percent increase in salary and benefits for 2013.

Initially, the budget had been presented with a 2 percent cost-of-living increase, but commissioners cut that back to 1 percent to keep the county in the black.

Of the county's own $824,840 increase in costs for 2013, $60,000 came from salary increases to Social Services personnel, who are paid by the county but whose salary levels must be within bounds established by the state.

A recent study showed that Stutsman County's pay rates for some positions in that department were too low, and the pay ranges were increased accordingly. Others stayed the same.

"That's another unfunded mandate we're going to have to deal with," Bradley said.

The step increase for county employees cost $147,311, and the cost-of-living increase cost $54,000.

However, more than half of the county's $824,840 increase comes from the additional $414,000 it will pay for employee benefits, including retirement, Social Security and health insurance increases.

"That health care is horrible," said Denny Ova, commenting on the increase in its cost.

The remaining $149,537 went to pay for increased costs for the Highway Department for materials and gas, and absorbing the costs of cuts to a state grant.

The budget will remain tentative until a budget adoption hearing, set for 6 p.m. Oct. 2. At that time the commission will discuss the budget again, and make changes.

In other news Thursday, the commission expressed its appreciation for the Jamestown/ Stutsman Development Corp. and Great River Energy, which collaborated to help bring a $1.2 billion fertilizer manufacturing plant to the Spiritwood Energy Park Association industrial park in Spiritwood.

Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453

or by email at