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County adopts $56M budget for ’18; Property tax levy to increase 4.9 percent over 2017

Upon further review, the Mower County property tax levy will increase only 4.9 percent rather than the 6.758 percent the commissioners certified earlier this fall to meet a deadline for state-mandated Truth-in-Taxation public hearings.

With the increase, property taxes will contribute an estimated $20,825,954 toward the 2018 county budget with its $56 million in expenditures. The balance of the revenue comes from fund reserves ($5.28 million), state aid ($2.17 million) and non-tax levy sources ($27.9 million).

“We spent a lot of time in the last month or so going over each department’s budget with the departments heads,” Commissioner Jerry Reinartz said at the County Board meeting Tuesday morning. We would like to have gotten it down to nothing.”

But the county’s expenses have risen a lot, he said, “due to out-of-home placement, an increase of 15 percent in employees health insurance and so on; and also losses in revenue from our wind towers. There were a number of items that made it impossible to get it any lower than we did, without laying off people, and we would be in trouble in some departments if we did that. Our staff is pretty much where it should be as far as each department.”

The budget includes money for two major projects, County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said. One is the move of overhead utility lines underground. A state inspector alerted the county that the situation was unsafe, Reinartz said.

The other is to transform a tax-forfeited property near the county’s recycling center into an impound lot for the Sheriff’s Office. It will include a garage to protect high-value impounded vehicles.

Oscarson noted that the county is liable for damage sustained during impound to  those vehicles.

Although the budget taps fund reserves, Oscarson said, “We are not using reserves for cash flow purposes.”

In other business, the board

•Approved increasing the mileage reimbursement by one cent to 54.5 centers per mile, which is staying at the federal rate.

•Approved a permit for the National Wild Turkey Federation to have a raffle on Jan. 27.

•Approved a joint powers agreement for the operation of a househould hazardous waste program.

•Approved a contract with Paintcare for disposal of latex and oil-based paint for the household hazardous waste facility.

•Reappointed Jeannette Curley to the Moer County Housing Authority for a second five-year term.

•Approved final payment for bridge and road projects.

•Accepted a $55 donation from the Moose Lodge to the Sheriff’s Office to be given to the Hy-Vee Feed a Family program.