Mower County certifies 2019 final levy at 4.75 percent

Published 8:35 am Wednesday, December 19, 2018

After some discussion, Mower County officials managed to reduce the preliminary levy for next year.

The Mower County Board approved the 2019 levy at 4.75 percent during Tuesday morning’s session, which was a significant reduction from the previously proposed increase at 9.742 percent during the Truth in Taxation hearing held earlier this month.

“That’s cutting it in half,” said Jerry Reinartz, board chairman. “That’s a really good job.”

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Several factors played into the reduction of the proposed levy, according to Craig Oscarson, outgoing county coordinator. The 2017 audit showed an increase in growth of the county’s total fund balance portfolio. Also, the board had decided to pay off one of two jail bonds which added an additional $250,000 in savings into the county’s budget.

“The budget we brought up stays the same,” Oscarson added.

Commissioner Polly Glynn stated that because Mower County came back with “a good audit,” on Monday that this had allowed the county board to reduce its preliminary levy down to 4.75 percent, which was why “it was important to lower the levy as much as we can,” she added.

There were several things affecting the county’s budget for 2019, according to a previous story, including:

•The new 2018 compensation study, which established appropriate pay ranges for hard to fill positions such as public health nurses and detention deputies at the Mower County Jail, along with a complete review of the county pay grades to established markets. An estimated budget increase to implement the study was $500,000.

•General wage increases of 2.5 percent for county employees.

•$234,963 for 2.4 additional employees, a GIS intern position and overtime in lieu of one additional staff request.

•Sheriff’s Office requested adding one deputy for transport needs because of overtime budget issues, and the recommendation to add $100,000 to the 2019 reserve contingency budget and request the new county administrator study client transportation needs for all departments.

•$50,000 for the recreation center project being undertaken by the city toward an indoor playground, under the stipulation that the playground would be free and accessible to all Mower County children.

•$60,000 for the Grow Austin economic development initiative.

•An increase of $260,000 in Corrections budget for placing clients, and the increase is based on increases in client numbers and costs per placement. The increase changes this budget item from $940,000 per year to $1.2 million annually.

•$47,854 for tax software support, which has been an ongoing contract and left out of the 2018 budget.

•$5,000 to assist in funding the 2019 Governor’s Pheasant Opener in Mower County.

•Various shifts and reductions in Health and Human Services department programs.

•A state cost shift and or reduction of $53,197 for the MN Choices program from the state budget to the county budget.

•A cost shift and or reduction of $108,000 for guardian services for clients with persistent mental health diagnosis. Before, this cost was a grant eligible expense under the Adult Mental Health grant.

•An estimated cost shift and or loss of $65,000 of federal MA funding for clients in children’s mental health and residential treatment centers.

•An estimated reduction of $21,000 in state children support incentive money caused by decreased federal funding.