Fillmore County held its Truth in Taxation public hearing on December 3. This hearing is required by state law and is to be held after proposed tax notices for the coming year are sent out. It is an opportunity for property owners to participate and discuss budget and tax issues before the final levy is adopted.
Several people who showed up for the hearing were there to dispute their property valuations. County Administrator Bobbie Vickerman explained that valuation disputes are looked at in the spring. She suggested they talk to those who work in the assessor’s office. Chairman Duane Bakke urged them to sit through this meeting before doing so. He also encouraged them to discuss their proposed tax notice with someone from the assessor’s office if the numbers don’t seem to make sense, noting some mistakes are made. Several left the meeting to talk in the hall with property appraisers at the beginning of the meeting. Others sat through the meeting and spoke later with a property appraiser.
Vickerman reviewed actions taken in 2019. Many are technology related including the replacement of all computers with a 2007 operating system, an agreement with CPS to host AS400 I-series software until the software is upgraded, and a contract with Schneider Geospatial for GIS services.
The board has been committed to a Road Preservation Plan using additional revenue gained through the Local Option Sales Tax and the Wheelage Tax. County Engineer Ron Gregg applauded the board late in the meeting for these revenue streams. Some of the LOST funds are generated from people who vacation in the county. If not for these revenue streams, the funding to preserve local roads would have to come out of local levy dollars.
Vickerman continued the 2019 review, noting there is a citizens’ input time during each board meeting. The county has a contract with Flexible Benefits, which has provided recommendations for ways to save in health insurance premiums. A compensation study was completed by David Drown & Associates. A Finance Department was created for proper checks and balances of county finances.
In March 2020 the county website will be updated and ADA compliant. Savings have been realized through Centralized Office Supply Purchasing and are expected to also be realized through the centralization of cleaning supplies purchases.
A tax payer services area has been created on the main floor of the courthouse to provide all services on one floor and to provide an opportunity for the offices to work together.
Performance goals for 2018
Each of the 13 performance goals were reviewed. Many goals were met including the pavement quality index, tobacco use benchmark, child support program cost effectiveness (Fillmore County again is in first place in the state for child support collections), percentage of low birth weights, 10 day turn around time for document recording, 100% post-election results, the increase by 5% of state and federal dollars brought into the county for veteran benefits, the maintenance of 85% of veterans in the county receiving services and/or benefits, and the maintenance of the debt service levy under 11%.
Some goals were met only in part or not met. A reduction in the total number of accidents that involve fatalities and injuries from the prior year was not met. In 2018 there were two fatalities and only one in 2017. Median ratio is held between 90% and 105% for three assessment ratios. This measure was met for Ag/Rural vacant classification (96%), but not for Commercial/Industrial classification (120%) or Residential classification (88%). The goal of 7,200 visits per 1,000 residents for annual library visits was again missed; only 5,473 visits per 1,000 residents in 2018 were made. The measure of a 40% recycling rate was nearly reached with a 2018 rate between 38% and 40%.
Some goals for 2020 include the maintenance or building of the fund balance and the implementation of the Airport Master Plan. The continuation of and evaluation of shared positions between departments and the continuation of managed IT services with a review of the contract for its effectiveness are a couple of the ongoing objectives of the county. There will be a continuation of centralized purchasing of office and cleaning supplies.
Vickerman reviewed the county’s expenditures and revenues over seven years. In 2020 39% of the budget will go to payment of salaries and benefits. Thirty-three percent of the budget will go to the following three areas: Highway capital (28%), Airport capital (4%), and IT project and management (1%). Eight percent of the budget will go to equipment and general purchases, including general, facilities, and highway purchases.
The county will receive $825,599 in County Program Aid in 2020, an increase of $47,835. The proposed levy increase is 3.49%. The final levy will be adopted on December 17. The preliminary levy for 2020 totaled $11,196,215.
One goal is to reach 50% of annual operations expenses in the fund balance. The fund balance is $13.9 million now and not yet at 50% of annual operations, but the directive from the board is to hold that balance steady or build it up.
Each position is reviewed when it becomes vacant with a hire analysis form. The coming year will be the second full year using complete managed IT services. The replacement of the phone system has been completed.
One challenge in 2020 will be to find a county assessor to lead the department under the new state regulations.
No questions were asked by the public except those at the beginning of the meeting concerning individual property valuations.