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Commissioners approve maximum levy increase

By Staff | Sep 21, 2009

Faribault County commissioners approved a preliminary maximum levy increase of 4.1 percent. However, not everyone thought it was a good idea.

Saying he would rather see more cuts made in the budget, board chairman Tom Loveall cast the lone dissenting vote on the five-member board.

“We’re not getting to the core of this thing, which is spending. We need to build reserves by shaving cuts in other places,” says Loveall.

The budget overall is increasing from $8.576 million last year to $8.927 million.

Although voting for the 4.1 percent increase because they want some “wiggle room” in the budget, the other commissioners are determined to lower the hike before final approval is given in December.

“We can whack at it until December. It gives us some leeway if another shoe drops off,” says Commissioner Tom Warmka.

Rising health insurance costs for Human Services has made putting the budget together more difficult.

“We were looking pretty good until Human Services got their premium information,” says County Auditor John Thompson.

Although Human Services has made cuts and has implemented a wage freeze to hold its budget increase to 2 percent, the county will have to pay the insurance increase of about $60,000.

Commissioner Tom Warmka commended Human Services on working to control spending. Because of the efforts, he says, the 4.1 percent was possible.

“We turn around for what we thought was going to be a net savings and, ‘poof’,” says Warmka.

Thompson says the loss of interest income on bonds also is affecting the budget. He says bonds that were 6 and 7 percent interest likely will pay 2 to 3 percent.

Commissioner Butch Erichsrud, like the other board members, would like to reduce the levy hike closer to 3 percent. But, he does not want to see any employees laid off.

County officials still need to come up with about $32,000 more in cuts to reach the 4.1 percent increase.

Thompson is asking other departments to look for reductions in non-payroll items. He has already streamlined his budget to trim more than $40,000.

Commissioners are already discussing costs they’ll have to deal with in the near future.

Commissioner Bill Groskreutz says funds will need to be set aside for remodeling or tearing down the county jail after the new one opens.

Human Services has expressed an interest on moving into the building.

Groskreutz says there will be moving and transition costs associated with the relocation. He says the current Human Services probably will have to be remodeled.

Commissioner John Roper and Warmka both think the agency’s caseloads will increase because of the economy, which would require more staff.