State budget cuts trickling down to counties-townships budgets

The budget cuts that were announced at the beginning of the year by Governor Jack Dalrymple have begun to make their effect felt at the county and township levels.


Posted on 3/5/16

By Melissa Anderson

The budget cuts of 4.05 percent across all State agencies was ordered by the Governor in early February after drastic and sustained drop in oil drilling and depressed crude prices resulted in a budget short fall of $1 billion.

“While the allotment[budget cuts] to the General Fund does not affect the special fund allocations to counties, the overall downturn in tax collections obviously does,” Terry Traynor, the Assistant Director for the North Dakota Association of Counties, informed county auditors and highway supervisors across the state in an email.

The North Dakota Association of Counties incorporated the revised state revenue projections for sales & use tax, motor vehicle excise tax, motor fuels tax, and motor vehicle registrations to update their projections of county amounts expected from the State Highway Distribution Fund and the State Aid Distribution Fund.

“Like the Governor stated, the sooner we know what the likely adjustments are, the more time we have to adjust to it,” Traynor said.

Traynor advised caution in his email to county auditors  and highway supervisors across the state as the projections were just that, projections.

“Remember, these are only projections,” Traynor stated, “As we found out from the projections provided eight months ago, they will be off if the underlying assumptions do not prove to be accurate.”

In the projections provided by the North Dakota Association of Counties to the auditors in the state, the association used the gross county and township allocations from the State Aid Distribution Fund.

“As the amounts each county passes through to the townships is difficult to determine at this level, the gross amounts have been provided,” Traynor explained.

The one-time highway funds that were appropriated in HB1176, for distribution are affected by the budget cuts. The original amount of funding was decreased from $2,640,725.11 to $2,533,775.74. That is a difference of $106,949.37 that had to be made up through the reduced funding across the 53 counties of North Dakota.

“We expect the NDDOT will be notifying each affected county about their revised amount – however, for planning purposes, counties may want to figure that their amount will be reduced by 4.05 percent for now, until they hear from NDDOT,”Traynor stated.

For Cavalier County, the projected cuts to the State Highway Distribution Fund from the  previously projected at $656,473 will go down to $565,660, which is a decrease close to $91,000. Cavalier County Road and Highway Supervisor Terry Johnston is not to concerned about the decrease in state funds from HB1176.

“We are hoping with the oil prices being low, the bids on road projects will also come in at a lower rate, which they have been in other counties,” Johnston said, “The low oil prices will also bring the price of fuel down for general road maintenance. The State Highway Distribution is only a projection, so that could change as well.”

The decrease in State Aid Distribution to Cavalier County and it townships is over $132,000. Cavalier County Auditor Lisa Gellner does not foresee that loss of revenue affecting the budget that was created last fall for the fiscal year.

“County General will see a decrease in revenue, but we don’t see it being significant enough to create budget cuts at this time,” Gellner stated, “The decreased State Aid will make for smaller distributions to townships as well.”