County vote to raise levy by .5 percent

The Mower County Board of Commissioners Tuesday voted unanimously on a .5 percent  increase to the 2021 levy.

The rise will be an increase of $112,894 over the 2020 levy.

“This leaves us in a really good spot,” said County Administrator Trish Harren. “We feel like we’ve given ourselves a cushion.”

The county was able to get the percentage to .5 percent because of moves it made as a whole and within the county departments including cutting capital projects and improvements, but a big piece of the puzzle was using $2.8 million in cash reserves that were already dedicated to road improvements.

“That was essentially 10 points right there,” Harren said.

The county was also able to front load a variety of expenses — moving them to 2020 rather than 2021. This was able to be accomplished because the COVID-19 pandemic forced employees to work from home and cut down on travel, among other factors. CARES funding was used to reimburse for public safety and public health wages to the tune of $1.5 million, which was put into a special fund just for that purpose.

The county also had to add an extra $50,000 to pay for prosecution expenses related to the tragic stabbing death earlier in the week of a 15-year-old boy.

As it stands, the budget for next year was set at $57,751,643 while the levy is at $22,691,613.

“We are extremely sensitive to the economic situation our property taxpayers are in,” Harren said. “We did everything possible to keep our levy as low as possible and not cause any more pain.”