Producing a budget for a large organization can be a long, grueling process. It’s not made easier by last-minute surprises by an organization’s leadership.
Last Tuesday was the traditional day for final budget and levy resolution, according to the Crow Wing County Board’s agenda. That process was thrown off course when a majority of the county board — Commissioners Paul Thiede, Doug Houge and Rosemary Franzen — voted against against a motion to adopt the budget, preferring to look at new budget-cutting ideas. Among the ideas aired by Thiede at Tuesday’s meeting were cutting $700,000 more from the budget and taking the full 10 percent cut in library funding as allowed by the state.
In an ideal world the county board would chart the course for the budget-making procedure, offer input and suggestions early in the process, and then let the finance experts crunch the numbers before final adoption.
Crow Wing County’s current situation, faced with an imminent Dec. 28 deadline, is that months of pain-staking work by county staff have been derailed for now, Mike Carlson, finance director, said that in a decade of experience with the county that this was the lowest levy the county had seen and some of the greatest budgetary work he had seen from departments.
The purpose of this editorial isn’t to judge the merits of the eleventh-hour budget cut suggestions. Suggesting ways to reduce county budgets is fine. It’s the timing of these suggestions that’s ill-advised. These recommendations should have been a part of the budget discussion weeks ago when various parties had the opportunity to weigh in on them.
County employees take their lead from the county board. If board members don’t buy in to the budget-making process it’s difficult for employees to have much commitment to it.