county commission

Smaller budget approved for coming year

Cannabis discussions intensify as deadlines approach

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With just days to go before the budget deadline occurs, Kingsbury County Board of Commissioners approved their 2022 final budget. Commissioners also discussed medicinal cannabis dispensaries and transferred money into the highway department’s funds during their special meeting.

2022 Budget

Commissioners had already approved a preliminary budget, but some changes had been made; the commissioners needed to vote on their final budget for 2022. This was originally placed on the agenda for their Sept. 28 meeting, but a family emergency caused the meeting to be cut short, and no vote was taken on the 2022 final budget.

Commissioners approved a smaller budget than last year. This year the boards went through each line item on the budget and adjusted as needed with the help of the department heads.

In total appropriations for 2022, the county plans to spend $3,698,711 through their general fund. In 2021, the county’s total appropriation was at $3,771,380. The general fund spending was decreased this year by $72,669.

In the county road and bridge fund, the county appropriated $3,112,508 and this year appropriated $2,841,546, a decrease of $270,962 over last year.

In revenue, the county budgeted $2,576250 for the 2021 budget for total taxes levied. In 2022, the total tax levied is estimated at $2,622,752. This means the county anticipates receiving approximately $44,502 more dollars than last year. This rise in revenue is not because of a tax increase but is based on assessed value increases seen across the county, whether it be new construction, renovations to buildings or assessed value increased. In other words, county taxes should remain the same from last year.

In the new budget, commissioners increased the new base pay for county employees to $15 an hour. Commissioners also increased county employees pay using Premium Pay through the American Rescue Plan, a COVID relief bill. Commissioners in 2022 will give all employees an additional $1.85 an hour through COVID funds. This should be beneficial for employee retention and recruitment of new employees.

CannAbIs in the County

Commissioners held a discussion with Kingsbury County State's Attorney, Gary Schumacher, on adopting an ordinance on medicinal cannabis dispensaries in the county. A medicinal cannabis dispensary is like a drug store. It dispenses cannabis to individuals who have a prescription from a doctor. A dispensary is regulated by the South Dakota Department of Health and the county where it operates. There is no provision for using a dispensary for recreational use of marijuana.

CannAbIs in the State

In November of 2020, the voters of South Dakota voted to allow medicinal cannabis use in the state by passing Measure 26. The program was supposed to be implemented by July 1, 2021, but the Department of Health did not have the regulations in place. The deadline for having the regulations in place was pushed back to Oct. 29, 2021. In the meantime, the state has asked that counties, cities and towns within South Dakota pass ordinances to postpone any applications until the October deadline.

On Sept. 3, the Department of Health released a draft of its proposed rules for the states Medical Cannabis program. The proposal was reviewed by the Legislature Interim Rules Review Committee on Sept. 13 and approved.

When the Department of Health’s proposal was reviewed, 149 rule changes were proposed, 143 of those approved in the final version, and the item was sent to Governor Kristi Noem to sign. Noem expressed her disapproval at one part of the new regulations.

“I am disappointed the rules review committee chose to take out the list of specific medical conditions for qualifying medical cannabis patients,” said Noem.

She wanted the use of cannabis limited to specific medical conditions. Nonetheless, she was happy with the passage of the new regulations.

Patients and caregivers will have to submit an application to receive their registry/identification card from the state. Just as patients and subscribers need to file with the state, so, too, do the dispensaries. The state mandates a registration certificate, background checks of applicants; the dispensary must be in compliance with all local ordinances, city or county.

A dispensary must have security measures in place similar to those a pharmacy would use for controlled substances. They also must have a transportation plan approved by the state for deliveries to their establishments and keep electronic records with frequent updates given to the State.

Medicinal cannabis must be packaged in child-proof containers with specific labeling. The cannabis must be kept secured on the premises, unless dispensing. The process of opening a dispensary will not be easy or cheap since the regulations mandate numerous and costly measures to be in place.

Local actions

In Kingsbury County, some cities and townships have already passed their medicinal cannabis dispensary ordinances, some even making changes to their ordinances to be even more restrictive.

The City of De Smet originally set a licensing fee of $5,000 and raised the fee to $50,000 and increased a dispensary’s hours of operations from 7 a.m. to midnight. Arlington will allow two dispensaries within their city limits. From fees to number of dispensaries to hours of operations, the local adopted ordinances for the medicinal cannabis dispensaries vary wildly.

The County and Cannabis

Commissioners took an hour discussing with Schumacher on why they needed to adopt an ordinance and what would happen if they didn’t adopt an ordinance. They also asked about the possibility of being a “dry” county in this matter. They discussed licensing fees, recurring fees, the number of dispensaries in the county to allow hours of operation and even talked about the beer and liquor licenses, the number of and the costs. After an hour of discussions, the item was tabled. Counties have until Oct. 29 to adopt an ordinance regarding medicinal cannabis dispensaries in their counties.

OTHER BUSINESS

Commissioners agreed to transfer monies from the general fund to the highway department’s account. This is a routine transfer, as most money comes into the auditor’s office and is redistributed for specific department purposes.

Kazmerzak had written a resolution in support of vaccines and distributed a copy of it to the commissioners. It was not adopted as a resolution. The county will post the recommendation, and all commissioners strongly encourage the residents of Kingsbury County to get vaccinated against COVID.

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