County budget on par in first quarter

By Derrick Knutson

Finances in Chisago County – like many counties across the state – are tight this year, but in the first quarter of 2012 county departments have been diligent about not spending beyond the budget laid out at the end of last year, County Administrator Bruce Messelt said.

During the Chisago County Board meeting May 2, Messelt gave county commissioners an update on the status of the county’s general fund, the health and human services budget and its road and bridge fund.

In terms of the general fund, Messelt said it was running very close to last year’s level, with a slight cash surplus.

The road and bridge budget is only running at 9 percent of what was projected, but Messelt explained that’s because there are still numerous road and bridge improvement projects that still need to begin.

He also noted the county has received some money for the projects in advance, and it just procured over $500,000 the federal government owed the county for road improvements completed in 2009.

Messelt said the health and human services budget is also running at about last year’s level.

Even though the three funds are currently at manageable levels, there was one area of concern for Messelt.

The amount of money projected to be used by county vehicles this year isn’t matching the actual consumption so far.

Currently, the county is about $40,000 over its projected fuel budget, and if gas prices rise further, the county could be about $200,000 in the red at the end of the year in that fund.

But even with that shortfall, county funds are still in good shape in the first quarter.

“When we get done and we look at the entire budget for the first quarter, generally the message is we’re on target, and running slightly favorable,” Messelt said.

Travel request passes by slim margin

Also during the meeting, the board approved an out-of-state travel request for Chisago County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Tracy Armistead.

Armistead will be traveling to Des Moines, Iowa at the end of the month to attend a workshop on recruiting and managing volunteers.

Commissioners George McMahon, Rick Greene and Mike Robinson passed the request, but commissioners Ben Montzka and Lora Walker dissented because of the possible cost associated with the trip.

Messelt told the county board the cost for the workshop might be covered by grants, but he wasn’t sure that was the case during the meeting and had to do some research to find out where the funding source was coming from.

He later told the Post Review the funding will be coming from the Sheriff’s training budget.

Montzka didn’t see the training as a needed expenditure.

“I guess I don’t see the need to travel to another state for a class like that,” he said.

McMahon expressed a dissenting opinion about the training, saying it is needed and attracting the type of volunteers the Sheriff’s Department should have is not as simple as “recruiting a volunteer to pull weeds.”

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