The budget for the Stutsman County Park District has steadily declined over the last three years while one of the district's major revenue sources has been reduced, according to information from the Stutsman County Auditor's Office.

In 2019, the Park District had an expenditure budget of $533,000. For 2021, the budget was $383,000.

"Our Park Board budget has always been kind of skinny," said Mark Klose, chairman of the Stutsman County Commission. "... it has always run on a shoestring, we are always cautious of that budget."

In the past, Stutsman County collected the lease payments for the cabin sites along the reservoir. As recently as 2019, that amounted to more than 30% of the revenue collected by the Stutsman County Park District.

Beginning in 2017, there were efforts to make it possible for cabin owners to purchase the lots that served as their cabin site. In December 2020, Stutsman County accepted the land around the Jamestown Reservoir from the Bureau of Land Management. The deal included a mechanism for cabin owners to buy their lots with the purchase price going to the Bureau of Land Management.

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So far, 48 of the 71 cabin owners have purchased their lots. This amounts to about 67% of the cabin owners now no longer paying a lot lease to the Stutsman County Park District.

"We'll be OK for this year," said Ramone Gumke, Stutsman County commissioner. "The big unknown is cabin lots sold. What that could add to the tax revenue."

Tyler Perleberg, Stutsman County tax director, said his department is in the process of calculating assessments for any lots that would now be owned by the cabin owners.

"We are trying to get as close to market value as possible," he said. "It is tough to say where that will end up."

Perleberg said the property will be valued as a whole with the value of the improvements and land considered together to determine the property value for taxation.

Any property tax collections on the lot will be split between all of the taxing districts where the lot is located including the school district, fire district, township and county.

In the meantime, the Park District will pretty much operate the way it has, Klose said.

"We're not destitute or broke," he said. "We are just pointing out the (financial) things we need to keep in the back of our minds."

Gumke said the Park District has also taken other steps to increase revenue.

"We've made some changes to how we handle camping," he said. "That is increasing the revenue we receive from camping."

Changes to dock rental procedures and contracts with vendors could also help the Stutsman County Park District.

"There are a lot of small things that will help us bridge that loss," Gumke said. "It is not a horrible situation. We'll get a better picture in the future."