County sets max tax hike at 2.2 percentPublished 10:45am Wednesday, September 11, 2013
The county’s 2014 tax increase will be noticeably smaller than last year.
The county board unanimously voted to set its maximum tax increase for next year at 2.2 percent, compared to a maximum 11.5 percent levy increase the board set around this time last year.
“I think that’s a real good report; 2.2 percent I think sounds very good, but with some fine tuning I think we can lower that even some more,” Board Chairman Jerry Reinartz said. “That’s our goal to keep the levy as low as possible.”
Reinartz commended the finance committee, which consists of Commissioners Mike Ankeny and Polly Glynn, along with county staff for keeping the levy increase at a low level.
“This sounds encouraging,” he said.
Last year, the finance committee and board spent several months looking for ways to hone in the max 11.5 percent increase. Eventually, the board whittled the increase down to 9.11 percent and used $500,000 in reserves to drop it to about 6 percent.
The 2.2 percent increase would bring the levy to $17,603,221.The board will again look to tighten this year’s levy.
“We are prepared to take a look at that for further reductions,” Ankeny said.
The most expensive factor driving the 2.2 percent levy increase is 14 new position requests — specifically nine in Health and Human Services.
As planned last year, the county will use $400,000 of reserves for property tax relief. In total, the county will spend $1,380,000 in reserves in 2014 — including $450,000 to replace the Oakland Avenue Bridge at the East Side Lake dam. About $128,000 will be paid back into reserves, largely through conceal and carry permits and E-911 dollars — both reserve funds that are restricted.
Like last year, it looks like agriculture property will bear the brunt of the increase.
“With the change in value, I expect a lot the budget levy shift will go to the ag community,” Coordinator Craig Oscarson said.
The county is expected to get an additional $300,000 from the wheelage tax.
In the future, the board may discuss other revenue options, including an aggregate tax on gravel and a local option sales tax that can be used to fund specific highway projects.
Additional budget is on the way. In 2016, the county board is slated to receive a significant boost in revenue from the Pleasant Valley Wind Farm — possibly $400,000 to $500,000, according to initial county estimates.
This year, Mower County is receiving more than $1.2 million through the Wind Energy Production Tax from the county’s 256 wind turbines.
Pleasant Valley, the wind farm Xcel Energy plans to start constructing next year, will add about 100 more turbines. Oscarson has said he expects to first see the increase in 2016, a year after the wind farm is completed and starts producing energy.
County discussing costly out-of-home placement
An area family is looking to the county board to help stabilize the life of their autistic son.
Dan and Karen Noterman asked for the county board to help move their son from the Harmony House to Chileda Institute Inc. in La Crosse, Wis., where they believe he will benefit from the trained professionals there.
“I’m looking for a place where my child can be safe,” Karen told the board. The Notermans said their son previously spent three months at Chileda, where he showed positive signs.
Since Chileda is out of state, many state funding sources won’t apply, meaning the county would pay most of the bill that could top $160,000 a year, according to Human Services Director Julie Stevermer — almost a 10th of her Out of Home Placement budget.
Karen said her son has run away multiple times and been involved in other incidents that caused the home’s leaders to have “grave concerns” about keeping their son.
“Right now, [he] is in crisis,” Karen Noterman told the board.
The family has 60 days to find a new home for their son, but they said there are no treatment centers that will suit his needs in Minnesota.
Administration officials from Southland Public Schools and Special Education Director Dan Armagost offered to pay for the education costs of about $160 a day, but argued it’s the county’s responsibility to place the student when all other options have been exhausted.
He argued the current placement is endangering the Notermans’ son.
The county board tabled the request Tuesday to research the issue before making a decision at the next meeting on Sept. 24.
If the county approved the request, it’s already in the budget, as the 2.2 percent maximum tax levy increase approved Tuesday includes about $160,000 to pay for the placement in Wisconsin, though that doesn’t necessarily mean the county will vote “yes.”
Proposed 2014 county road projects:
—Oakland Avenue: Replace bridge at East Side Lake Dam. Estimated cost: $2.2 million
—County Road 4: Replace bridge a half mile west of County Road 7. Estimated cost: $1 million
—County Road 25: Bridge replacement. Estimated cost: $150,000
—State Line Road: Replace bridge just east of Highway 218. Estimated cost: $370,000
—County Road 57: Bridge replacement a mile west of Highway 56. Estimated cost: $600,000
—County Road 101: Repavement in Waltham. Estimated cost: $200,000
—County Road 7: Repavement from County Road 18 to northern limits of Adams. Estimated cost: $200,000
—County Road 7: Repavement from County Road 3 to Highway 16. Estimated cost: $950,000
—County Road 8: Repavement from Highway 56 to County Road 3. Estimated cost: $1.6 million
—County Road 10: Repavement County Road 1 to the north county line. Estimated cost: $500,000
—Replace four bridges on township roads. Estimated cost:
Total estimated cost: $8.37 million