Houston County Board Chair
Because I am wired the way that I am and believe the way that I do I cannot be anything but transparent in reporting county business to you. I’ve heard it said many times that “leaders have to say the tough things that others don’t want to say.”
A paradox of large governing bodies of our time in history seems to be that:
• Promises are made, but constituents are forgotten.
• Knowledge is expressed, but less judgment is used.
• More dollars are spent, but forgotten is where the dollars come from.
This fiscal year the Houston County Board will have their work cut out for them. Finance Director Carol Lapham reported to the commissioners that the board has borrowed close to $1.4 million from the general fund since 2005. Six hundred fifty thousand was borrowed in the past two years. None of these dollars have been replaced. By Minnesota State Law the county must have enough money in reserve to operate for five months. The general fund is our savings account, the reserve. Of great concern is that, if the tradition of borrowing from the general fund continues, in a few short years the county could be in violation of the law with no funds in reserve and no money for capital improvement.
If Houston County stays within this years proposed budget it would still mean a $362,000 deficit would have to be borrowed from the general fund or passed onto the taxpayers next year in the form of a tax increase unless budget cuts are made. This year we have already seen a 6 percent tax increase. In my opinion, we as commissioners, will have to work diligently with department heads to come in at least $362,000 under budget by calling for budget cuts, making the tough decisions rather than borrowing from the general fund or increasing taxes.
Where did the $362,000 budget overrun come from? The $362,000 is because of employee and elected official raises (excluding commissioners) along with health benefits that were granted in 2012. I vehemently opposed the pay raises but now that just means that I, along with my fellow board members, have to be different from larger governing bodies by remembering our constituents, using good judgment and remembering where the dollars come from in order to rein in the $362,000 deficit.
Justin Zmyewski is the Houston County Board Chairman and Commissioner of District #2.