Ramsey County 2015 fiscal budget estimates sharp increases

Shinoah Young Journal Reporter
L to R: Commissioners Bill Mertens, Myrna Heisler, Mark Olson, Elizabeth Fischer, auditor, Ed Brown and Scott Diseth, discuss the final budget hearing for Ramsey County Tuesday morning.

Ramsey County’s fiscal budget for 2015 was approved by commissioners Tuesday morning at the final budget hearing - however there were several minor changes, confirmed Elizabeth Fischer, county auditor.

Fischer further explained in greater detail that Ramsey County’s mills were increased from 110 mills to 127 mills [for 2015 fiscal year’s budget estimates] –  a sharp increase compared to last year’s estimates. This is due to two entities: the Lake Region Law Enforcement Center [LEC] and the Lakes Social Service District - whose budgets needed increasing for programming and personnel.

Earlier this year, commissioners unanimously voted to increase the taxpayer’s mill levies from 10 mills per year to 14.64 mills per year - mainly due to fluctuations within the LEC’s budget. Commissioners unanimously confirmed Tuesday that the mill levy for the General Fund would be levied up from 16.23 mills to a higher 22.25 mills, in order to cover LEC costs [10 mill maximum].

To support the LEC – Ramsey County needs exactly 14.64 mills, for the corrections center to safely and effectively provide necessary services.

“The difference in the ten and the fourteen [mills] is going to be made up in the General Fund,” stated Fischer.

So in other words, 4.64 mills are going to be taken from the General Fund to support the LEC – a five-county entity that houses inmates state/county-wide [Ramsey County takes the brunt of the bill - again at a 10 mill maximum for the corrections center levy].

“We have an obligation to keep our community as safe as possible,” explained Heisler.

This fiscal change was inevitable, though, said commissioner Myrna Heisler, because first of all the LEC man day inmate fees - originally $30 per day, recently had to be raised to $70 per man day [per inmate].

Also, Heisler explained, the funding for social services and related needs and costs have been increasing. “There is no guarantee of state assistance for social services, therefore, we must cover our costs,” said Heisler.

So overall, the 2015 fiscal budget for the LEC is estimated to be at approximately $785,000 dollars for the 2015 budget year, compared to last year’s much lower $325,000.

It was estimated by the Commission [and Auditor Fischer] that the LEC alone will be increasing their mills from 6.94 mills to 10 mills in the 2015 fiscal year.

“We have to estimate how many local prisoner days we have to pay for but we don’t know how many that’s going to be,” confirmed Heisler. “It’s federally and state mandated that you have to have an incarceration center.”

Other Business

Tanya Wieler, current HR coordinator for Ramsey County, resigned on Tuesday morning during this commission meeting. This will be effective as of December 31, 2014. “She was not asked to step down,” said commissioner Heisler. “We did have questions about her availability,” said Heisler.

“I was concerned about whether we were getting any bang for our buck. We made the decision at our special board meeting to ask her about her workload and her availability.”

“She [Weiler] chose to resign when she came in this morning,” stated Heisler. Although,  Heisler did mention that one of the commissioners had previously stated that she [Weiler] was doing a fabulous job.  Weiler still remains the HR coordinator for the City of Devils Lake and the Lake Region LEC.