Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Iron County board passes budget, employee raises


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Hurley — The Iron County Board of Supervisors passed the county’s 2021 budget in a special meeting at the Iron County Memorial Building Tuesday, including a 50-cent-per-hour raise for county employees.

The budget had originally included a 25-cent raise, however, the board voted 10-2 to raise that amount to 50 cents. Board members Opal Roberts and Ken Saari voted against the measure. Supervisors Karl Krall, Scott Erickson and Bill Thomas weren’t at the meeting.

The decision to increase the raise to 50 cents came after a discussion regarding whether a 25-cent raise was adequate, given that it would take around 38 cents to keep up with the cost of living adjustment.

“I’d like to see it a little higher even,” said board member Tom Thompson, adding that a lot of the county employees continued working through the coronavirus pandemic.

The extra 25-cent increase is expected to cost the county roughly $47,000 more, according to Iron County Clerk Mike Saari, when everything is all calculated out.

He cautioned that the board could decide what they wanted, but the county was already using applied funds to balance the budget without the additional cost of the extra raises.

“We can’t balance our budget as it is, $622,000 is a lot of money to steal out of the general fund,” Saari said, adding the county may have to consider finding additional revenue or ways to cut costs in the future.

The approved budget projects a total of approximately $16,707,306 in expenses and $10,855,394 in revenue over the county’s four combined funds when the additional raises are added in. The county’s levy of $5,804,912 in taxes is the maximum allowed under state law. The rest of the budgeted expenses will be covered by applied funds from the county’s general fund to balance the budget.

Ten members of the county board approved the budget, with John Sendra and Larry Youngs abstaining from the vote.

The budget includes a mill rate of .00583, which translates to $5.83 for every $1,000 of taxable value. This is 21 cents less than the 2020 rate of $6.04 for every $1,000 of taxable value, according to information presented to the board.

In other action, the board:

—Approved a loan from Chippewa Valley Bank in the amount of $931,238 to cover placement costs associated with the Department of Human Services for next year. For the past several years, the county has borrowed the money for the placement costs based on the previous year’s actual costs.

—Authorized county personnel to pursue the reimbursement of money the Human Services Department put towards a software purchase it never received. The decision to pursue reimbursement means the county may be filing litigation to get the money back.

—Passed a resolution authorizing Hilbert Communications to pursue a state broadband grant application with the county.