Preliminary county budgets lean

By Emily Bialkowski
Caledonia Argus

The Houston County Board entertained five preliminary budget requests from various department heads at their Aug. 28 meeting.

None of the proposals introduced new or large expenditures compared to year prior, and the board will continue to review additional department requests as they draw closer to final budgeting dates.

Commissioner Jack Miller prefaced conversation by saying the first round of budgeting gives the board an idea of what they are looking at in total dollars requested, but doesn’t address what they can levy and what items may be cut.

“The problem is we have a number of small departments and when you look at needing to cut significantly, unfortunately the only major component is employment,” Miller said.


Economic development
Authority – Jordan Wilms

Based off of last year’s budget there’s not a lot of changes to the Economic Development Authority  department needs.

Jordan Wilms, program coordinator, said an uptick in printing/advertising costs for a visitor’s guide is expected, but not much else. He is asking for $6,000 over year prior.

The board had little comment on the proposal, but Miller took a moment to address the county’s disposition on new business.

“There have been accusations made that our approach to the mining is anti-business. I would personally like to clarify that we’ve been very, very aggressive trying to find suitable businesses with Jordan,” Miller said.

“I would encourage Jordan to continue creating viable, good business for the county.”


Veteran Services – Robert Gross

Rob Gross noted the only major change in his proposed budget is a $20,000 grant that ends this year. The expiration of the grant actually amounts to no more than a wash, he said.

Gross said utilizing the Tomah Veterans Hospital has greatly aided their budget because it’s a much shorter trip than to the Twin Cities. However, there is definitely a larger amount of people utilizing veteran services, he said. Roughly 13 trips were needed in August.

“There’s no wiggle room there,” Commissioner Steve Schuldt pointed out.

“We have the right person advocating for a very deserving population,” Miller added.


Recorder – Beverly Bauer

More than $20,000 was added to the recorders budget this year, but the request is being necessitated by the fact that the county dipped into a technology fund last year to cover payroll expenses, which they can’t do again.

“I have added in the expenditures that were taken out last year.  That’s the main reason it went up so much from last year,” Beverly Bauer explained.

The board didn’t have much to say on the matter; perhaps realizing that the temporary fix was, in fact, temporary.

Bauer did mention that her office has handled 2,200 documents in the first half of this year and only handled 4,000 total last year. The workload is quite unpredictable from year to year, she said.


Assessor – Tom Dybing

The assessor is requesting an $11,000 increase from year prior for salaries and health insurance.

“Basically my other expenses are sideways,” Tom Dybing said. “One thing to keep in mind is we switched to Vangard for our appraisal software. That has saved us a considerable amount of money,” he added.


Court Administrator –
Darlene Larson

The court administrator is asking for a flat $3,000 increase. Limited in discussion, Darlene Larson simply said, “There’s not a lot to control.”