County signals it may approve raises as begins budget process

 Pennington County Auditor Julie Pearson.
Pennington County Auditor Julie Pearson. (KOTA)
Published: Apr. 4, 2017 at 4:46 PM CDT
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Pennington County's long and sometimes difficult budgeting process began Tuesday when county commissioners gave department heads preliminary direction to begin crafting their budget requests.

In an effort to give the commission a snapshot of county finances, Pennington County Auditor Julie Pearson told commissioners that she estimates the county will fail to meet its goal of maintaining cash reserves equal to 18 percent of the overall 2017 budget.

She explained that some revenue projections came in lower than expected. She said the commission might have to look at budget cuts to get the reserve fund back up to approved levels.

One bright note came for county employees when the commission decided to ask department heads to submit budgets that include cost of living wage hikes and the potential for merit increases as well.

“The biggest single cost to any government, since we are service providers, is wages to the employees,” said Pearson. “And for budgeting purposes (the county commissioners) gave direction to apply a COLA to the wage scale and to give up to two merit increases next year.”

Also tucked away in Pearson's presentation to the commission was a note that, at some point, the board will have to make some contingency plans in the event that Croell Redi Mix wins a $10 million dollar suit against it filed against the county.

Croell alleges the county hurt its business when the commission denied Croell certain permits at its gravel quarry near Bear Country.