County approves a lower levy

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 28, 2000

Mower County commissioners approved a levy increase of 9 percent on Wednesday, instead of the 17.

Thursday, December 28, 2000

Mower County commissioners approved a levy increase of 9 percent on Wednesday, instead of the 17.49 percent originally proposed. The actual amount of the increase will be $7.8 million, instead of the previously reported $8.4 million.

Email newsletter signup

Put simply, a homeowner whose property value did not significantly increase can expect to pay approximately 9 percent more in taxes than they did last year.

County Commissioner and Finance Committee member Richard Cummings said after the board meeting that the committee chose to go back and scrutinize the budget and the associated reserves after receiving input from the public after the Truth in Taxation meeting held on Dec. 7.

The committee then decided to use more reserves and lower the levy. Cummings said that some residents suggested returning a rebate to taxpayers in the same way that Gov. Jesse Ventura’s administration has to Minnesota taxpayers. But Cummings warns that the county’s reserves are based on a 1999 audit and were built up over time. A 2000 audit, he said, may show different figures. After the new audit the reserve could possibly be reduced over time in the same way that it was built.

To put the levy increase into perspective, Chairman Ray Tucker said that the dollars generated by the levy will be equivalent to those raised between the years 1991 and 1992, in those years’ dollars. After the meeting he added, "I know that people don’t like to pay taxes, but I think the finance committee did a good job; they used additional reserves."

The county also approved its 2001 budget at an amount of $37.01 million, instead of the $37.42 million previously announced at the Truth in Taxation meeting. The adjusted amounts will be spread amongst the general, highway and human services funds.

In other county financial news, county commissioners voted to give themselves a salary increase during Wednesday’s meeting. Currently, the commission members’ salaries are $17,500 per year. Commissioner Len Miller said that in comparing Mower County’s commission salaries to counties with comparable populations, the new rate should be $22,000. Miller’s motion to approve that amount died for lack of a second among the commission members.

County Commissioner Dave Hillier offered a new amount. "I think that an increase of 3 percent would be more in-line with those of the other county employees, despite different responsibilities in different counties and the population change. I think that would be more appropriate."

That proposal was not transferred to a motion.

Commissioner Miller made a second motion, this time for salaries of $20,000 per year. That motion was approved 3-2, with Cummings and Hillier dissenting.

Commissioners Miller, Tucker and Nemitz voted to approve the new amount.

The county went on to approve the same rate for next year’s per diem meeting attendance as was used this year – $40 per committee meeting. County Commission Chairperson Ray Tucker said that not all of the meetings of the committees are considered per diem and that this amount also goes to members of the public who are on the committees.

In other county business:

n The county approved non-union wages and health insurance for 2001. Wages were increased to 3 percent, with a cap on the employee’s responsibility for medical insurance at $100 per month.

n The county also approved an increase for elected officials’ salaries of 3 percent. Miller stated that county officials can appeal the increases if they so desire.

n The budget for the county’s court administrator was increased by $2,000 because of additional costs incurred for travel and education.

n The board authorized an agreement between the Sheriff’s Department and the Minnesota Department of Health for $7,500 in grants for tobacco programs.

n The county board will address the removal of the Welcome Center from the its budget at the Jan. 2 meeting.

n County Engineer Mike Hanson said that a major undertaking for next year will be the repaving of County Road 14. Rather than tearing out the pavement and filling it in stages, the county hopes to do the entire 12 to 13 miles in one to two segments.

n $20,000 was approved to be moved into the fund for ditch no. 5 to avoid a negative balance. The money will be transferred from the general fund at a rate of 6 percent.