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County sets 3.6% levy increase

By Staff | Dec 25, 2016

Numbers were the name of the game Tuesday afternoon, as the Faribault County Board of Commissioners set their own 2017 salaries, discussed wage increases for non-union county employees and approved a certified 2017 levy of $10,556,171.

The levy, which represents a 3.6-percent property tax increase, is up $370,190 from the year before.

As for the budget, discussed along with the levy, its most significant drop in projected revenue for 2017 was accredited to a decrease in federal bridge funding.

The board, acknowledging that the budget was virtually the same one it approved in September, voted to unanimously approve the proposal, including the $10,556,171 levy.

That was after a string of discussions and resolutions regarding payments at the county level.

Presented with a request to sign off on a three-percent increase of non-union county employee wages, effective Jan. 1, the commissioners gave their support.

Motions also came and went to approve additional financial requests, offered by Central Services director Dawn Fellows. They included setting the county’s mobile device reimbursement rate, paid as a flat-rate monthly stipend to county employees, at $75, and upping reimbursement rates for meals outside the county from $9 (breakfast), $11 (lunch) and $16 (dinner).

However, commissioner Tom Warmka, in his final meeting as board chairman, expressed some displeasure with a subsequent motion to raise the County Board members’ annual salaries ($19,373) by three percent for 2017.

“This is getting out of hand,” he said, casting the only vote of opposition in a resolution to raise the wages. “You’re getting $75 a month for a phone, now we’re talking about getting paid for committee reports it’s getting a little out of hand, guys.”

In addressing committee reports, Warmka was touching on comments made earlier by fellow commissioner John Roper.

Reports from assigned committees are a standard part of each County Board meeting, but Roper had asked whether or not he should continue to report on the county’s fair board if he is not also paid per diem, as is usually the case for other committee or board assignments.

Ultimately, a vote did approve the proposed salary increase, which Warmka initially reasoned could be a 2.5-percent jump rather than a three-percent increase.

At Tuesday’s meeting, scheduled at 4 p.m. rather than its normal 9 a.m. time to accommodate a Truth in Taxation hearing, after which the levy was set, the County Board also:

Implored county attorney Troy Timmerman to investigate a case presented by Cliff Treptow, of Wells.

Treptow, 84, visited the meeting and presented a letter to the editor, which he said the Wells Mirror declined to publish, that details his alleged years-long fight to prevent nearby greenhouse smoke from damaging his property.

Claiming not only that smoke has hindered the value of his property and affected his health but also that the greenhouse owner has willfully ignored pleas to deal with the issue, Treptow asked the board if it would try to pursue more authority over the matter.

Commissioner Bill Groskreutz, who represents the Wells area, attested to Treptow’s concerns, telling the board that sometimes smoke in that area is “so heavy you can’t see across the road.”

And Warmka, who first asked why Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) had not acted on the situation, tasked Timmerman with looking further into the ordeal.

“I know you were coming here looking for action,” Warmka said. “Unfortunately, we can’t do anything right now, but at the least, we can hopefully get MPCA down here.”

Timmerman, who acknowledged that he and Groskreutz had previously met with Treptow regarding the issue, said the Wells resident could have “a pretty good cause of action” for a lawsuit. Otherwise, he said it is possible the county could try to come up with some sort of nuisance ordinance to help alleviate the problem.

Approved resolutions to allow auditor John Thompson to advance funds from the county’s General Fund into ditch funds as deemed appropriate, as well as to commit fund balances per Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) statement 54.

Discussed updates from the Planning and Zoning department as well as its buffer program, hearing from both Michele Stindtman and Nathan Carr.

Carr said the tentative plan is to host a buffer team meeting in January.

Heard updates from county engineer Mark Daly, who requested approval to advance funding for 2017 County State-Aid Highway work and spoke on impending Safe Routes to School projects in Blue Earth.

“We will write a Joint Powers Agreement with Blue Earth like we did with Wells,” he said, referencing the Routes project.