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Commission narrows budget gap

7/13/2014

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

mkenwright@dailynews.net

Ellis County staff narrowed the budget shortfall by approximately $1.4 million during five days last week to reach $220,782.

As the end of the month's deadline draws closer, officials have held special meetings to scrutinize and trim line-item numbers.

Friday's meeting detailed staff's efforts to remove any excess that would not affect services.

Reducing subsidies to outside organizations, relying on planned retirements, cutting back on overtime and reducing fuel use were among the cost-saving measures. Subsidies were cut $156,837 from the 2014 level of $1.4 million.

The prospect of more subsidy reductions troubled Ellis County Commission Chairwoman Barbara Wasinger.

"I think we're already going to cripple some (organizations)," she said.

After a department leader offered to make a clerical position part-time, Wasinger noted the severity of the budget cuts.

"It's sounding like we're going to be squeezing blood from a stone at this point," she said.

Commissioner Dean Haselhorst said he would reduce his pay by $9,000, but Wasinger said the pay issue should be voted on by all commissioners. Commissioner Swede Holmgren was unable to attend due to medical issues.

Greg Sund, Ellis County administrator, said there is a 3-percent allowance for employee pay raises.

The potential increase, which is worth $230,432, is not official and can be adjusted or eliminated.

Wasinger thanked staff for diligence with finding additional savings.

She said she believes Ellis County residents are willing to deal with small inconveniences to avoid a tax increase.

"I don't think there'll be a noticeable reduction in services," she said.

"Now that the treasurer said with one less person, the lines might be longer. I think people would be willing to be a little patient in order to not have their taxes raised."