County board approves 2017 tax levy

Published 10:43 am Wednesday, September 28, 2016



As expected, new positions and staffing needs are driving the county’s 2017 budget a bit higher.

The Mower County board approved its maximum 2017 tax levy Tuesday at 5.69 percent levy, which would raise the levy to about $20.34 million.

“It can not go up; it can only come down if we can find some other ways to trim up the budget and we are continuing to look at those things line by line,” board Chair Polly Glynn said.

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In early discussions, the county’s finance committee discussed an increase near 11.2 percent due to staffing requests and changes, so Glynn and Commissioner Tim Gabrielson were pleased the budget is coming in well under their initial projections.

“I felt that it came in better than I anticipated when we first started this process, especially knowing that the new positions that we are approving,, which is down from what was requested,” Glynn said.

However, County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said it’s unlikely the board could lower the levy significantly or to zero.

The county’s personnel committee was faced with more than 13 positions, four of which were hired already in 2016 and will show up in next year’s budget. The committee is recommending the county take on nine new positions, six and a third of which will be paid by property taxes, while the others are paid through non-levy dollars. The new positions make for $374,060 in the budget.

Oscarson said the positions being added are from workload increase and cost shifts resulting from extra workload, some due from state shifts in Health and Human Services.

The county is also adding a full-time metal detector at the Mower County Jail and Justice Center, but it will be doing it with two new employees with a few jailer positions and by relocating a deputy, while the county originally anticipated having to hire three people for the change.

Despite the staffing needs, Oscarson was pleased that he, board members and other staff were able to trim the budget from an original 11.2 percent, had they included all staff requests.

The county also anticipates a $325,000 cost from the implementation of a compensation study, which will result in an adjustment in payroll.

Then the finance committee is recommending the county use $450,000 in Public Works reserves to fund two road projects instead of increasing the levy to cover the local share of two projects.

The finance committee is also recommending the following increases in appropriations to outside groups: $11,000 to the Mower County Historical Society, $5,000 to the Mower County Senior Center and $18,000 to the Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District. 

The county is set to receive an additional $186,231 in County Program Aid this year.

The county board must approve it’s maximum levy increase in September, but the board can still lower the levy after it sets its maximum levy.   

Maximum 2017 levies

City of Austin: $5.3 million, a 9 percent increase

Austin Public Schools: about $6.6 million, a 1.84 percent decrease

Mower County: about $20.3 million, a 5.7 percent increase