MT Board of Livestock to Raise Fees, Cut Costs

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A BOL conference call on Monday resulted in forward action in addressing ongoing budget problems.

As 2014 has progressed, we’ve seen the Montana Department of Livestock’s budget jump from $800,000 short to A-OK.  The immediate problem fixed, ranchers across the state became more aware of the need for change going forward.

What happened?

According to data from the Department of Livestock (Department), they saw their cash balance drop over $3.5 million in the course of 2009 to 2012.  The reductions they blame on three factors:

1.  Between FY 2009 and FY 2013, $1 million in per capita expenses were used for brucellosis testing in Montana’s Designated Surveillance Area.

2.  They saw a declining general fund in the Montana Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in that same time period.

3.  Stagnant to declining revenue in the Brands Enforcement division in the face of rising costs between FY 2010 and FY 2013 was also evident.

 

Where are we at now?

According to the Department, increases in brand inspection fees, per capita fees, and lab fees have not been sufficient to cover increasing costs.  Combining cash and spending authority, it’s estimated that the shortfall in 2015 will be $400,249.

How do we fix it?

If the budget turmoil at the Montana Department of Livestock has done anything, it has made ranchers more aware of how their money is being managed.  Producer involvement at the Montana Board of Livestock (Board) meetings has been phenomenal and, in the face of producer demands for action, the Board created a “budget subcommittee” during their July meeting.  That committee, made up of Brett Debruyker, John Scully, and John Lehfeldt, hit the ground running.

During a special conference call on Monday, August 25, the rest of the Board got a peak at what they’d been working on.

In order to meet the budget for FY 2015, the subcommittee looked at places where reductions could be made and where money could be raised.  One area of budget reduction is in staffing.  Vacancies can be left vacant and personnel could be reduced.

Fees could also be increased.

So what did they decide?

The Board on Monday approved the following items:

  • put out for public comment an increase in brand inspection fees from $0.75 to $1 per head,
  • raise the per capita fee,
  • raise lab fees by 5{ba1edae1e6da4446a8482f505d60d3b8e379ff6dedafe596d9ba4611a4e33a48} at the Montana State Diagnostic Laboratory,
  • continue “vacancy” savings,
  • and take recommended reductions in staff.  

Christian Mackay, Executive Officer to the Montana Department of Livestock, told us that the Board will discuss during their September Board meeting what positions will be impacted.

Whether or not the increase in brand inspection fees should be an across-the-board move or separated out was discussed by the Board.  The idea was brought up to make no changes to pasture permit inspections and look only to an increase on the fees at change of ownership.  Nothing was decided in this arena and the proposed increase for brand inspection fees will soon be open for public comment.

The Board did also move to formalize a request to Governor Bullock to have 100{ba1edae1e6da4446a8482f505d60d3b8e379ff6dedafe596d9ba4611a4e33a48} of veterinary diagnostics funded with general fund dollars.  This will, according to Montana Stockgrowers Executive Director Errol Rice, allow per capita fee money that is assessed to the industry to be put back into the Department of Livestock and help build the Department’s ending fund balance again.

Will it work?

In an interview with Northern Ag Network after Monday’s conference call, Mackay said that the action on Monday will put the Department on the right budget track.   The Board’s next meeting is tentatively scheduled for Monday, September 29 and Tuesday, September 30 in Helena.

 

© Northern Ag Network 2014

Graphs from Montana Department of Livestock

Haylie Shipp

 

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