Budget reviews start for county

NEW ULM – Brown County commissioners began reviewing the 2014 draft budget with department heads Monday.

Subject to further review, the $30.84 million draft budget is $42,500 (.1 percent) lower than the 2013 adapted budget. The 2014 draft budget includes a 2 percent employee wage hike, except for AFSCME courthouse and highway department and LELS union contacts that remain open for 2014.

Total expenses in the 2014 draft budget are $4,506,362, up 5.4 percent from the adapted 2013 budget expenses of $4,277,386.

Draft budget factors include 14 percent overall insurance premium hikes. Base health insurance plan costs with a $2,500 deductible are shared 50-50 between the County and employees.

Brown County Family Services Director Tom Henderson said estimated 2014 out-of-home placement expenses of $850,000 are up $125,000 from 2013.

Those aren’t the department’s only budget issues.

“Special Education payments are changing,” Henderson said. “Lots of time is spent doing paperwork due to many formulas. We need to add a little (.25 full-time equivalent) office staff.”

Brown County Highway Engineer Wayne Stephens said his department plans to overlay CSAH (County State Aid Highway) 13 from the north edge of New Ulm to the Minnesota River.

“It’s a busy road with paved shoulders that help protect it from water erosion,” Stephens said. “It’ll be another big year for us, for the second year in a row. We’ve got a $5.8 million budget.”

Parts of CSAH 13 just south of New Ulm, CSAH 16, 22 and 29 with curb and gutter in New Ulm, are part of 2014 road construction plans.

Commissioner Scott Windschitl questioned replacing a highway department plow truck with 120,000 miles on it.

“Snow plow trucks take more of a beating than other trucks,” Stephens said. “I’d rather replace it than risk blowing an engine. We have no spare trucks if it goes down. We’re driving trucks longer than we used to. Tire costs are up too.”

In a letter to commissioners dated July 24, 2013, Brown County Jail Administrator Mike Mathiowetz requested $400 a month for medical consulting services from a local doctor to deal with inmate health issues that may include narcotics.

“I have a problem with paying $4,800 a year on top of other medical costs,” Windschitl said.

Commissioner Dick Seeboth echoed his sentiments. Commissioners are expected to act on the request at today’s board meeting.

Draft budget reviews continue at 1 p.m. today and at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in the courthouse commissioners room.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com).

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