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County Board sets preliminary levy increase at 7.6 percent

By Staff | Sep 29, 2008

The Faribault County Board of Commissioners recently set a proposed tax levy increase of 7.6 percent for 2009.

Translated into dollars, the levy would be at $7,777,238 next year, compared to the current property tax of $7,230,268.

“The board has the option to lower the levy until Dec. 20, but cannot increase it,” County Auditor John Thompson says.

The board had looked at a 12-percent increase in August after meeting with department heads. They have made several cuts since that time, Thompson says.

There was $70,000 removed from a general fund contingency which would have gone towards a county-wide GIS system. In addition $20,000 was axed from the EDA (Economic Development Authority) budget request from the prior year.

The driving factor in this year’s budget is a 20 percent levy increase in the Human Services budget, Thompson adds. That equals $315,000 more than last year.

The increase has to do with out-of-home placements and the county’s share to treat sexual predators after prison terms are completed.

Thompson says these are not “anticipated” costs, but actual expenses that will occur.

“The county would have had to raise the human services levy by 30 percent to cover all the increased costs in the department,” Thompson explains. “Instead they decided to use more than $140,000 in reserves from that fund.”

Other increases in thebudget which are driving the levy increase are the costs of heat and utilities due to higher energy costs, about $35,000 more than last year.

Higher fuel costs are also responsible for a $15,000 increase in the sheriff’s budget for gas for squad cars.

Thompson says national economy woes are also responsible for a lower anticipated return on county investments, about $20,000 less than last year.

One budget item which received a lot of discussion at the Sept. 15 meeting was the inclusion of $16,000 for increasing the 4-H coordinator’s position from part time to full time.

While left in the budget, Thompson feels it could be up for discussion again.

“There is a possibility that the 4-H Federation will participate in that cost,” Thompson says. “In that case, the budget amount could go down.”

Overall, the 2009 county budget is proposed to be $18.569 million, a decrease from 2008’s $18.210 million.

Thompson says the decrease has to do with fewer transportation dollars, which means a lower amount of road projects.