County adopts preliminary budget, levy

The Chisago County Board of Commissioners Aug. 16 took an action it does every year around this time — approve a preliminary budget and levy for the next year — but this year’s presentation on the matter was a bit different than in the past.
Instead of a county staffer talking to the board about the figures that compose the budget and levy, a savvy intern, Alissa Mell, from the Rush City area, took the reins to explain to the board that the recommendation was for a 3.5 percent levy increase over the previous year.
The board approved that proposal 4-0 and set 7 p.m. Dec. 6 for the public hearing on the final adoption of the budget and levy. The budget and levy can be pared down before that time, but they cannot increase.
The total proposed county levy is $34,702,103; the total budget for 2018 is $68,167,809.
Chisago County Administrator Bruce Messelt said Mell, who will be a senior this year at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, did an exemplary job working on the budget and levy.
“So good was (her work) that this year we did not have to convene the technical committee of the budget to go over line by line by line with each department,” Messelt said. “Alissa completed that on her own with meetings with department directors. We were able to deliver what the budget and finance committee asked for, which was a budget balanced at a 3.5 percent levy.”
Mell gave the board a presentation on the budget and levy, which served as her capstone project. She highlighted certain areas where expenditures were going up due to reasons like increased personnel costs and decreased grant dollars, and she also drew attention to areas were the county would be receiving additional revenue, like from the new jail, set to open in spring of 2018.
“With the new jail we are able to house more inmates,” she said. “So we’ll be sending fewer inmates to other counties. That’s about $480,000 in savings.”
Mell also took a look back at previous final levies to illustrate how conservative the county has been with its budgeting.
“Four of the past years, the levy has not been increased,” she said. “Two of the years it has gone down, and three of the years there has been a levy increase. On average, we are having about a 1 percent levy increase annually.”

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