Tax levy hiked 17.9 percent

Published 11:05 am Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Mower County property tax levy for 2009 will increase 17.9 percent.

The county commissioners approved the levy increase at a meeting Tuesday morning.

Fourteen percent of the total will be used to pay the first $10 million bond for the new Mower County Jail and Justice Center.

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The commissioners originally proposed a 21.688 percent property tax levy increase in September. However, increased wind energy tax revenues allowed them to reduce that figure by 4 percent.

The county’s general operating expenses will require 3.9 percent of the 2009 levy increase.

Hovering over the decision Tuesday to adopt the levy is the state’s expected $5.27 billion budget shortfall over the next biennium.

“We don’t know what the state will do about that,” county coordinator Craig Oscarson said.

Mower County is expected a $2 million County Aid Program payment from the state before the end of the year.

One option to consider was to approve the original 21.688 percent proposed levy figure to, as Oscarson said, “soften the blow” of any reduction in aid from the state; the commissioners chose not to do that.

Ray Tucker, 2nd District county commissioner, made the motion to adopt the revised and lower levy figure and Dave Hillier, 3rd District county commissioner, seconded it.

All five commissioners voted “aye” and it passed.

On Monday, Richard P. Cummings, 1st District county commissioner and chairman of the county board, met with Association of Minnesota Counties officials to discuss the pending impact of the state budget deficit.

Both Local Government Aid to municipalities and County Program Aid are expected to be slashed to reduce the state’s budget shortfall.

With Tuesday’s adoption of the 2009 property tax levy, the commissioners approved a $33.1 million expenditures budget.

The property tax levy will generate $15.36 million an increase of $2.74 million over the 2008 levy. Of that increase, $492,086 is for regular county services and $2.24 million is targeted for the net bond payment for the jail and justice center.

Through the Mower County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, the county is selling $10 million in leave-revenue bonds to finance construction of the justice center portion of the jail and justice center project.

Early in 2009, the county will take bids on construction of a new 128-bed jail and sell general obligation bonds to finance that portion of the project.

Tuesday’s action on the 2009 levy was conducted at a continuation of the Dec. 4 Truth in Taxation hearing. No citizens spoke for or against the actions.