The Fillmore County Truth in Taxation public hearing was held on the evening of December 14. The public was represented by six citizens.
As often happens, this hearing is confused with the Board of Appeal and Equalization held in the spring for property owners who question their property valuation and taxes. People who attended the Truth in Taxation hearing that had questions about their property valuations and taxes met individually with either county assessor Jason McCaslin or one of the property appraisers.
County Administrator Bobbie Hillery introduced the county’s appraisers: Ryan Welscher, Justin Kraling, Andy Hillery, and Aimee Stettlen.
This evening’s meeting was about the county’s budget/levy for 2022. Hillery began with a review of 2021, which was greatly affected by the pandemic. The county was able to ensure that about 78% of its staff could work from home. Almost all county services to its citizens were ensured throughout the pandemic, even though some of those services may have been delivered in different ways.
The county received grants for public health, elections, and CARES dollars in 2020 and 2021. A large portion of these funds were redistributed to local schools for technology upgrades and to local businesses and non-profits.
The county has used a managed IT service for a couple of years and is updating and securing its systems. The county has a contract with Schneider Geospatial for hosted GIS services, which allows access to information without cost to the taxpayer who wants to access data.
Both the auditor/treasurer and county recorder have transitioned to appointed positions. There is a public budget process for every department.
A committee studied the options for the future of the county jail and presented information on each option studied to the county board. Informational meetings allowed the public to be kept informed on the jail process. This next year the board will likely work through a process for the construction of a new jail facility. Much will depend on the proposals submitted and the estimated cost.
Hillery reviewed the 13 Performance Goals submitted in 2021 for 2020. This measurement is always for the prior year. Many of the goals were met or exceeded. Some were lower or more difficult to measure due to the pandemic including veterans’ services and benefits and library visits. Highway injuries were up in 2020, but fatalities went down from three in 2019 to two in 2020. The recycling rate of Municipal Solid Waste was down.
Goals for 2022 include maintaining and building the fund balance. Decisions will continue to be made on how to best use the American Rescue Plan Act funds. So far, some has been used for additional employee positions. Broadband investments are being considered. Updating of HVAC systems in county buildings and possibly some technology equipment and other items for a new jail are also being considered.
The county’s overall budget is down for 2022, mainly due to a significant reduction of dollars for Highway, which come from state or federal funds. This amount fluctuates year to year. Most other expenditures are relatively close to 2021 with the exception of general government, which is up about 12%.
The final levy will be approved at the county board’s December 21 meeting. The 2022 levy is proposed to increase 3.49%. The cost of living increase is proposed to increase by 3%.