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County department heads asked to trim budgets more

Fri, Aug 30th, 2013
Posted in All Government

Fillmore County Coordinator Karen Brown announced at the board’s August 27 meeting that the state mandated property tax levy limit requires the county to levy no more than it did in 2013 or a maximum of $8,435,205. In other words the county has to have a 0 percent increase or less.

The state mandated levy limits are one time limits on property taxes levied in 2013 and payable in 2014. The state has put the levy limits into effect for counties with a population exceeding 5,000 and for cities with a population exceeding 2,500.

Commissioner Chuck Amunrud said due to the mandated levy limit, “We are going to be left with few options.”

Commissioner Duane Bakke noted that $923,263 of the property tax collected in the first half of 2013 went to the state. Chairman Randy Dahl said over 30 percent of property tax levied on commercial property goes to the state, adding that the county’s taxes are capped and the state’s are not. The percent the state gets goes up every year.

As of August 27 prior to the meeting, the levy increase had been reduced to 7.81 percent or a total preliminary 2014 levy of $9,094,065.

The county did get some good news, however. For budgeting purposes they had used a 10 percent increase in health insurance premiums. Brown received an e-mail during the meeting telling her that the health insurance premium increase will be 2.5 percent. This is a total savings of $117,679 for the county.

Commissioners continued the process of trimming department budgets. Budgets reviewed this day included Highway Departments, Airport, SWCD, and Water Quality.

The proposal to budget for the purchase of highway equipment in 2014 was $745,227. That figure was reduced to $525,227 by putting off the replacement of a 1998 JD loader and a 2001 plow truck. Highway engineer Ron Gregg suggested the proposed budget for equipment purchases was only half of what it would take to get them back on a replacement schedule which has been delayed over the last several years.

Bakke maintained that they probably will never get back on schedule. Computers used to be on a regular replacement schedule, but to save money they have moved in the direction of replacing only what they have to replace. He continued that all county equipment state wide is going to continue to age. Bakke made the last statement when discussing the state mandated levy limit. He said when it gets down to it, we’re replacing highway equipment that needs to be replaced.

After reductions in department budgets and the savings in health insurance premiums, the county is still more than $300,000 higher on the preliminary levy than where they need to be to have a 0 percent increase.

County Coordinator

The board had reviewed a report from Beau Berentson, Association of Minnesota Counties General Government Policy Analyst, to help decide whether they should seek a county coordinator or county administrator to replace retiring Karen Brown.

Bakke explained that the coordinator position job description is created by the county board. Amunrud said he was comfortable with a coordinator and the flexibility it allowed. Bakke said that Brown has taken on jobs beyond what most coordinators do. He noted that an administrator generally is paid more. Chairman Randy Dahl said we all are comfortable with the way things are.

A motion was made and approved to start the search for a replacement coordinator.

Other Business In Brief

•Auditor/treasurer Shirl Boelter said it is county policy to maintain six months of operating funds. Brown said they are predicting that the state auditor will show when the numbers are released that the total fund balance for 2012 was 37.4 percent of current year expenditures. The state auditor guidelines are to maintain a fund balance of 35 percent to 50 percent of expenditures.

•Gerry Krage, Bluff Country Housing and Rehabilitation Authority, reviewed the history of the organization and improvements they have helped facilitate over the years. Currently, in the city of Preston DEED money will help rehabilitate 15 owner occupied homes ($22,000 per home) and the 16 unit Vesterheim Apartments. There are several funding sources for the rehabilitation of the apartments. Together, there will be an infusion of $1.4 million into the city of Preston and Fillmore County.

Krage recognized that money is tight all over, but requested an annual appropriation from the county of $5,000. He reported that Houston County has appropriated that amount. Commissioner Tom Kaase insisted we should find the $5,000 for the appropriation. Dahl said they do good work and it should continue. The appropriation for 2014 was approved.

•An additional server for the county to be purchased from IBM was approved as recommended by the Technology Committee.

•An $800 purchase for an upgrade to ArcView from ProWest was approved as requested by the county recorder and recommended by the Technology Committee.

•An access permit to tillable and non tillable land for Gary and Cindy Krahn to CSAH 38, Section 36, Sumner Township was approved.

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