County Board candidates address budget and tax levy
Published 7:59 pm Friday, March 12, 2021
With the April 13 special election for the Mower County Board of Commissioners – District 1 seat one month away, the Herald reached out to candidates Tim Duren and John Mueller for the first of a question and answer series to be held prior to the vote. For this article, we asked the candidates the following question: What steps would you take to structure the county’s budget in a manner that would keep any tax levy increase to a minimum?
Here are their responses.
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This is a question I am very interested in looking into and one that most of the constituents I have spoken with are concerned about. I have been attending the monthly commissioner’s meetings since last fall and I see a good group of people working hard for the people of our county. It is obvious when I say that we are all in favor of our county’s residents, including myself, not taking on any more tax burden.
In being able to answer this question, it would require sitting down and researching the budget. I don’t know all the details right now. What I do know at this time is that our county officials often deal with unfunded mandates passed down from the state that they have no control over and that can put a burden on us in local government. A surplus in the budget would help with that, but not if the number of mandates coming through is excessive. I think that a good relationship with our local state legislators would be helpful, both in staying informed on issues that would affect our county and our dollars and also keeping them aware of the consequences that some of their decisions place on us at the local level.
It goes without saying that balancing the budget and keeping tax increases to a minimum is a priority.
I’m a common sense kind of guy and I’m not afraid to ask questions. If elected, I would take my concerns about this issue and work diligently to keep our taxes to a minimum.
If elected to the office of Mower County Commissioner, I would follow the process that is already in place to structure and adopt the annual budget and set the tax levy. That process includes conversations with department heads to learn their needs and budget requests for their department to provide services for the upcoming year, and then to add the expected fixed costs of county operations to that.
Then I would evaluate the expected county income that comes from sources other than property taxes. The difference between that income and those expenses is paid for by property taxes and determines the levy amount for the upcoming year.
Before adopting a budget or levy, I would have conversations with the stakeholders. I would want to hear from department heads which items on their budget requests are a “must” versus a “want” for their department and I would work with them to try to get the most out of every dollar in their budget. I would also want to hear from residents, farmers, business operators, and other property owners as to the effectiveness of the services provided by the county and their opinions about what is most important to them.
I would encourage economic development through growth of existing businesses and recruiting new businesses, both of which can result in an increase in home ownership and construction in Mower County. These are all ways to increase the tax base to help share the costs.
I have experience with city and township budgets as well as large organization budgets. I have had to establish and work within a budget and I have also been in the role of setting or approving budgets. I would appreciate your vote for District 1 Mower County Commissioner on April 13 so I can put my experience to work for you.