The Stutsman County Commission added a 2% step increase for employees during final budget discussions Tuesday. A public hearing on the budget will be held at 6 p.m. on Oct. 6 to finalize the budget used for the calculation of property taxes.

The step increase passed on a 3-2 vote with Commissioners Steve Cichos and Mark Klose dissenting. Klose said the funds shouldn't be committed but held as reserves to cover any future revenue shortfalls.

The increase was based on additional funds from the CARES Act federal funds to cover additional costs the county incurred during the coronavirus pandemic. The step raise would utilize about $110,000 of the roughly $500,000 the county anticipates receiving from the CARES Act.

The county will decrease its general fund property tax levy by 3.29 mills and increase the levy for the emergency fund by 3.29 mills to maintain the same property tax levy included in the preliminary levy. Money from the emergency fund can only be spent during declared emergencies in the county. Much of the repair of flood-damaged county roads last fall and this summer has been paid from the emergency fund.

Nicole Meland, county auditor and chief operating officer, announced she had received another job offer but would consider staying with the county if an employment agreement were implemented. Meland said the issue could not be delayed until the next regular meeting of the Stutsman County Commission in two weeks, although the commission asked for more time to research the contract.

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The county commission scheduled a special meeting for 8 a.m. Friday to discuss the topic.

In other personnel business, the county commission approved advertising for an emergency manager. Jerry Bergquist is planning to retire at the end of 2020 or early in 2021.