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New positions behind county levy increase

New positions are one of the driving factors for Mower County’s early 2017 budget projections after the county board discussed a 5.7 percent max levy increase, which would raise the levy to about $20.3 million.

The Mower County Finance Committee and Coordinator Craig Oscarson updated the board on its proposed 2017 levy on Tuesday. The county board must approve it’s maximum levy increase at its Sept. 27 meeting, 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.

The county’s personnel committee faced more than 13 position requests, 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 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, which will require hiring two new jailers and it will relocate a deputy. The county originally anticipated having to hire three people for the change.

“They were able to skinny that cost up, so that was a pretty good relief,” Oscarson said.

Despite the staffing needs, Oscarson was pleased the county was able to trim the budget from initial projections.

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

The county also anticipates a $325,000 cost from implementing 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 the 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 in 2017.