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County budget questions looming

Mower County may not be slashing the budget, but the county board is getting creative with small steps.

The county board has discussed a variety of measures of small to moderate cuts.

“There’s no golden ticket out there that’s just one thing,” County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said.

Oscarson argued the only one-stop shop for fixing the budget may be tax increases, of which the public is not fond.

Instead, the board has researched retirement incentives, changes to legal notices and switching some elected positions to appointed ones.

Retirement incentives

The latest target is long-tenured employees.

The board discussed a potential incentive program to entice employees at the top of the pay scale to accept early retirement.

That way, new — likely younger — employees can be hired at the entry-level salary.

The board will next discuss the program May 17. Some concerns remain. The board will discuss not allowing certain employees to take early retirement because it may be tougher to replace than would be worth the cost savings.

The early retirements could save thousands of dollars, depending on an employee’s salary.

Website publication

A bill has been introduced in the state legislature to allow counties to legally publish notices online.

The county is required to post legal notices in a newspaper, but Oscarson estimates the county could save $25,000 or more a year by publishing notices online.

He also argued that more people may seek the notices online, which is where many similar services are going.

Appointments

A bill that would give Mower and Freeborn counties the ability to appoint the auditor-treasurer and recorder positions is up for debate in the House. Rep. Rich Murray (R-Albert Lea) added the proposal for Mower and Freeborn counties to House File 1544, which started as just a proposal for appointments in Marshall County.

If the bill passes, the county board would appoint a recorder and auditor-treasurer, positions which were previously elected.

The bill, Murray said, would allow counties to ensure they have qualified people in positions. He said the bill is “another tool that’s just going to help counties manage their affairs better.”

However, Murray noted, the bill has a long way to go before it passes. Counties wouldn’t be able to make the change until the end of the current terms, which last until 2014.

Looking for magic

It may not be a trick, but counties are looking for magic when it comes to doing business.

The board passed a resolution to show their support for the Magic Act, which would give counties the opportunity to provide services in innovative ways.

Oscarson said the county can currently only provide services as stipulated by statute. Under the Magic Rule, counties could get more creative. The Legislature and governor would review the success of such efforts.