County looking to lower 18 percent levy increase

Mower County is grappling with a potential 18 percent levy increase in 2013, but commissioners are hoping the final number is lower.

The finance committee — Commissioners Tim Gabrielson and Jerry Reinartz — have been discussing the wishes and needs for the 2013 budget with department heads. If everything goes through, it would mean an 18 percent levy increase, county officials said at Tuesday’s board meeting.

“It’s not pretty,” Reinartz said.

The finance committee is planning to meet next Monday to discuss portions of the budget that can be cut and to look for ways to lower the increase. Reinartz mentioned asking department heads to make cuts to their individual budgets.

Some offices are asking for additional employees or for part-time employees to be made full-time, like in dispatch, the sheriff’s office and the recorder’s office.

 

The county is also in line to pay for two more social workers next year.  The county also has to pay back $315,000 of reserve funds used to keep the budget down last year, which doesn’t have to be done this year, but will have to be paid eventually.

Wish lists are far from the only thing driving the county’s budget increases, but it’s one of the aspects commissioners can control.

The county is set to receive about $400,000 less in County Program Aid after the formula for how the state funds are dispersed to counties changed. Human Services costs — particularly out of home placements — are also driving up the budget. Both cost factors are out of the county’s control.

The county will set its maximum levy increase next Tuesday. Once that number is set, commissioners can still lower the levy increase, but they can not increase it.

In the 2012 budget, the county’s levy increased by 4.5 percent.

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