County adopts ‘22 budget, tax levy

Published 5:00 pm Wednesday, December 15, 2021

The Mower County Board of Commissioners approved its 2022 budget and tax levy during a special meeting Tuesday night.

The commissioners settled on a budget of $59,398,645 and a levy of $23,258,903. The levy is a 2.5% increase from last year when the board was able to limit the increase to just .5%.

“We’re all pretty proud of only needing to have this increase this year,” County Administrator Trish Harren said during her presentation.

The final percentage is down from a proposed levy in September, which reflected a 3.9% increase, but board members indicated at the time they were not happy with that much of a raise.

“Let’s work extremely hard to get that done,” Commissioner Jeff Baldus said at the time in regard to reducing the levy. “I’m not happy with 3.9%. I understand why, but let’s just continue to see what we can do to get that down.”

Two things in particular accounted for the rise in the levy from last year: a 2.5% market rate adjustment increase to the compensation schedule resulting in $500,000 applied to the levy, and the announcement that the City of Austin would no longer fund half of dispatch services, resulting in an additional $750,000 impact over the next four years when the city would phase out of the agreement.

This year, that resulted in an additional $150,000 to the levy.

Another part of the increase came from added positions including a dispatcher, environmental services tech, GIS tech, attorney and auto mechanic.

Still, the commissioners were able to make cuts in necessary areas, something made easier by decisions in previous years.

They were able to cut $50,000 out of the reduced contingency fund as well as reducing the capital projects budget from $365,000 to $50,000, largely due to the county banking $4 million on hand in the capital project fund in those previous years.

This was on top of a 0% increase in health insurance premium cost and a $275,000 holiday due to insurance plan reduction and insurance usage rates.

Finally, the county paid off the final bond on the Jail and Justice Center to the tune of $728,007.

Harren also reported that the county as a whole had a really good year of value/growth. Grand Meadow and Waltham saw 20% and 18% growth respectively.

“We’ve shown extraordinary growth throughout the county,” Harren said.

However, there is also a shift as to where taxes are coming from in the county. An extreme housing shortage, coupled with high market demand are shifting taxes away from agriculture to residential. 

Last year, 57.10% of county taxes were coming from agriculture, while 35.72% were from residential. In 2022 those numbers will shift to 55.94% and 38.26% respectively.