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Final decision on county’s 2021 budget shifted to Dec. 15

The Mower County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday voted to hold off a final decision on the 2021 county budget and tax levy until next week.

The board was set to make a decision on next year’s budget, that would see just a .5 percent rise from 2020, but due to a delay in citizens receiving their proposed property tax statements, commissioners moved to delay affirming the budget until their Dec. 15 hearing.

A primary reason for the delay in sending out the statements was because of the election in November and how many resources it sucked up.

Over 60 percent of the county voted absentee this year, putting a strain on the personnel needed to effectively run the election.

“It’s really about being understaffed,” said County Administrator Trish Harren. “And having an election that consumed so much of our staffing resources.”

“It’s not something we liked to have happen,” Harren continued. “(Wednesday) I met with the auditor to come up with another plan.”

Nevertheless, the fact that the county is ready to agree to just a half of one percent raise from last year’s budget is considered a major boon for the county, especially taking into account the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2021 budget is slated to be $57,655,706 with a levy of $22,578,719. The .5 percent increase would come to $112,894 more than 2020.

“We started at 19 percent when we looked at all of our expenses to realistically run the county next year,” Harren said. “I can’t tell you how hard we worked to get it to that point (.5 percent).”

However, the board has to also start looking ahead to 2021 in terms of what the COVID-19 pandemic will look like for Mower County. Part of that is the economic strain the county and businesses will feel.

“We know there is going to be a vaccine for the virus, but there isn’t going to be an economic vaccine,” Harren said.

The Dec. 15 board meeting will be at 10 a.m. in the County Board Room of the Mower County Government Center (201 First Street NE). People can also attend through Zoom.