County to finalize ‘15 budget

Published 10:06 am Monday, December 22, 2014

The county board is getting ready to close out 2014 with a busy meeting.

At Tuesday 8:30 a.m. meeting, the board will set its 2015 budget, set the salary for elected officials and say farewell to one elected official.

The board is set to approve its 2015 budget and levee, which could increase by about 7 percent — a $1.2 million increase, which would bring the total levy to about $18.6 million.

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The finance committee has worked to lower the levy increase, but several more costs have come up for the 2015 budget, and the demand

The county’s meeting comes after the Austin Public School District approved a 5.7 percent tax hike Tuesday. The city is discussing an increase of just under 5 percent.

State shifts accounted for much of the increased budget need. Though the state actually increased county program aid from $206 million to $209 million, the formula for distributing that aid means that Mower County will get $323,000 less. County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said several other agriculture-heavy counties, like Freeborn, also saw aid reductions. County program aid is based on ability to pay, and Oscarson said the increases in ag land values in recent years shifted the aid to metro counties.

The county is also set to extend the timeline for “One Watershed, One Plan,” a plan approved in September to align the Mower County’s Soil and Water Conservation District’s watershed planning with Winona, Fillmore, Houston, Olmsted and Dodge counties under the Root River Watershed District. The commissioners will also appoint a board member to the “One Watershed, One Plan” board.

The board will also recognize Auditor-Treasurer Doug Groh, who lost the November election to challenger Steven Reinartz, for his nearly 25 years of service.

The board is also scheduled to set the salaries for the commissioners, Sheriff Terese Amazi, Attorney Kristen Nelsen, Recorder Jill Cordes and newly-elected Auditor-Treasurer Reinartz.

The meeting starts with a department report from County Assessor Joy Kanne at 8:30 a.m., followed by community health business at 9:30 a.m. and general business at 10 a.m.