Reduce county tax increase

Published 11:37 am Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Daily Herald editorial

Elsewhere in today’s Herald is a news story with details about Mower County commissioners’ plan to increase property taxes 11.53 percent next year. The impact of a double-digit levy increase will vary from person to person depending on the value and type of property being taxed, but every Mower County resident will feel the sting, even if indirectly. Fortunately the plan is preliminary, and commissioners may still decide on a smaller increase. We hope they find a way to do so.

In large part, the proposed increase relates to a change in state tax relief to counties; Mower is getting a lot less next year. This is a strategy that lets state officials claim that they are keeping state taxes down while leaving local governments to make up the difference.

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So it is Mower County’s leaders who are in the hot seat now. Exploring so-called “human services redesign” may provide eventual cost savings, although any relief is years away. Commissioners thus face many tough decisions, such as whether this is truly a good year to refill the county’s reserve coffers, a move that adds more than $300,000 to the planned tax increase. Commissioners might consider whether there are ways to reduce impact to taxpayers by reconsidering plans for major remodeling of county buildings. And if Mower County pays dues to lobbying organizations it might be time to end that practice since it’s not clear that the investment is producing favorable results. No doubt many other choices will also present themselves.

Ultimately, there is little chance that county leaders can avoid imposing a significant tax increase. The question will be how effectively they can minimize the impact.