NEW ULM - Brown County commissioners approved small budget increases Thursday for the Brown County Historical Society (BCHS) and Brown Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) at budget review sessions.
Director Bob Burgess said the BCHS expects more than the typical 7,000 annual visitors this year with the high number of U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 commemorative events going on for the second straight year.
"We've got a number of building repairs and updates to do, some of which we'll do ourselves," Burgess said. "New storage units with more capacity will save us walk-in space. It'll be the most cost-effective walk-in space, we'll ever get."
The BCHS request included an hourly wage increase of less than 2 percent, that would be the organization's first hourly pay hike since 2006.
The BCHS requested $86,304 for its 2014 budget, $3,875 more than it was appropriated in 2013. Commissioners compromised with a 3 percent hike, $84,902. Another $3,275 in "pass-through funds" will be used to maintain Searles and Oak Ridge cemeteries.
The Brown SWCD requested $99,490 for 2014. It was allocated $80,000 this year. Commissioners agreed on a $82,400 2014 budget.
In the past year, the SWCD did 44 CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program) spot checks and RIM (Reinvest in Minnesota) easements for compliance with program rules and regulations. Tree orders were distributed to 45 clients.
The Brown SWCD and NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) worked together on federal and state conservation programs for local landowners.
The district cooperates with NRCS to provide local landowners with information and technical assistance needed to be eligible for federal programs, enabling $41,872 in EQIP funds to be distributed in Brown County. There are now $86,539 in obligated EQIP contracts for 2013 installation.
Funding for EQIP includes conservation tillage, grass waterways, agriculture waste management systems, terraces, water and sediment control basins and other Best Management Practices (BMPs).
In addition, the SWCD is working with other organizations to help manage Lake Hanska water quality.
Commissioners maintained $1,200 annual funding for the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
"We're a business development organization for businesses and individual contractors. We don't do economic development," SBDC Director Michael Nolan said. "We service 25 to 30 clients a month, half of which want to start new businesses. We get them on the right track. Most bigger business accounts in financial trouble come from banks. They usually need help with their books, so we put together plans to get them back on their feet."
Nolan said businesses interested in selling out should contact the SBDC four or five years before they plan to sell.
"There are nine ways to sell a business, eight more than I earlier thought there were," Nolan said. "A retired banker is working for us on a fairly large Brown County employer at no charge to the client. I won't tell you who it is unless the client wants it known."
Nolan said fee-based, SBDC classroom training is available. It begins with business cash flow and profit and loss statements.
"Everyone raves about our programs," Nolan added. "We pay people to do our consulting. Never say never. We have good friends at the Minnesota Legislature and in other public and private places."
Bridging Brown County (BBC), which has graduated 185 Brown County residents including 21 Brown County employees from its leadership program since fall 2003, asked for $4,000 in 2014. It was allocated $3,500 in 2013. Commissioners agreed on $3,250 for BBC for 2014.
Brown County Agriculture Society President Lucy Gluth said her organization has paid off all its loans after receiving restitution from a court case involving a former Ag Society treasurer.
"We added more bleachers for demolition derbies," Gluth said. "We're improving lighting and saving energy with LED lights and planning more improvements like that."
Gluth said she got lots of compliments from people about gospel singing events held during the recent Brown County Free Fair.
"We've got people who have been doing this work for 20 to 30 years," Gluth said. "We like what we're doing and spend lots of time on it, but we need new board members too."
She requested and received approval of $28,500 for the 2014 budget.
Budget amounts are subject to final approval at a final levy certification meeting in December.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org).