County to vote on ’17 max levy

Published 10:18 am Monday, September 26, 2016

The Mower County board will vote to set its maximum 2017 tax levy on Tuesday.

The board has discussed a 5.7 percent levy increase that would raise the levy to about $20.3 million; however, the board has still been working on the county’s 2017 budget.

The board will set its maximum levy during its 8:30 a.m. meeting Tuesday in the basement board room of the Mower County Government Center, 201 First St. NE.

Email newsletter signup

New positions are one of the driving factors for Mower County’s early 2017 budget projections.

The Mower County Finance Committee and the Coordinator Craig Oscarson updated the board on its proposed 2017 levy at a Sept. 13 meeting. 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.

“Before we set the final levy, we’ll be looking to see if there’s any other spots where we can possibly trim things out,” Commissioner Tim Gabrielson said on Sept. 13.

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 recommended 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 increases and cost shifts resulting from extra workloads, some due to 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 jail employees 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.

“It’s better than what we first looked at last week,” Oscarson said. “We were looking at like an 11.2 percent.”

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.

Maximum 2017 levies

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

•Austin Public Schools: about $6.6 million, a 2.6 percent decrease

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

—The Austin Public Schools and Mower County boards have not yet voted to approve the proposed maximum levies. The school board is slated to on Monday, and the county board is slated to on Tuesday.