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Board works on budget, tax levy hike

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | Dec 6, 2020

The Faribault County Commissioners began the month of December with a full day of meetings. They began their day on Dec. 1, at 8 a. m. with a work session on the budget and then moved on to discuss bonding options for capital improvements.

After taking an hour off over the noon hour, they held their regular board meeting beginning at 1 p.m. followed immediately by the Ditch Authority board meeting. They concluded the day with a Truth In Taxation meeting at 6 p.m.

Sheriff Mike Gormley and Chief Deputy Scott Adams attended the morning budget planning meeting virtually to review the Sheriff Department’s proposed budget.

“Our main concern would be to keep the three new squad cars in the budget so we keep our current rotation of cars intact,” Gormley explained. “We do have some other funding sources for the Tough Book computers and radios which were originally in the budget.”

Public Works director Mark Daly also joined the meeting virtually to discuss the budget.

“We could remove the purchase of a new tandem truck from the budget for this year as long as it would go back into the budget for next year,” he commented. “Doing that would cut about $240,000 from next year’s projected expenses.”

Board members decided to incorporate Gormley’s and Daly’s suggestions into the proposed budget.

The two county parks were also brought up for discussion, including the rates campers are charged for staying at the parks.

“If we have to do any more improvements we will have to explore the possibility of raising the rates,” chairman Tom Warmka noted.

County auditor/treasurer Darren Esser reviewed other changes from the current year’s budget compared to the proposed budget for 2021.

“There is a three percent increase in the cost of living adjustment for union contracts,” Esser said. “The employee insurance went up by 9.7 percent. The county is picking up 5 percent of the increase while the employees are paying 4.7 percent of the insurance hike.”

The proposed budget presented at the Truth In Taxation meeting showed the net levy at $11,987,349. This represents an increase of $299,450, an increase in the levy of 2.562 percent. This amount includes a budgetted fund balance increase to the General Fund of $68,627.

There was no public comment at the Truth In Taxation meeting and the proposed budget will be presented for final approval at the next regularly scheduled board meeting on Dec. 15.

During their discussion on possibly seeking a capital improvement bond the commissioners identified the need to replace the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system for the ground floor and second story of the courthouse.

“It would involve replacing the piping for the heating and cooling on both floors,” Esser said. “Those pipes are located in the walls.”

Part of the plan would involve relocating the County Probation office to the old jail building and then moving the Central Services office to the main floor of the courthouse.

“That way nobody would have an office in the basement of the courthouse where the air quality is not as good,” Esser explained.

Another major capital improvement would be to replace more windows in the courthouse.

“We have already replaced five windows on the north side,” Esser noted.

Other possible items which could be included for improvements would be to reslope the north side of the courthouse lawn and to put a new roof on one of the Public Works buildings.

The commissioners will address the possibility of seeking Capital Improvement Bonds at their meeting on Dec. 15.

At their regular board meeting the commissioners passed a resolution to set the sale price at $100 each for tax forfeited properties located in the cities of Bricelyn, Frost and Kiester. Each city may now purchase the blighted properties for the purpose of demolishing them.

The board also:

• Designated the Faribault County Sheriff’s Office as the entity in charge of Aquatic Invasive Species oversight for the county.

• Passed a resolution approving the updated Greater Blue Earth River Basin Alliance Joint Powers Agreement.

• Approved buildings and grounds supervisor Troy Beckman’s request to attend an online webinar in order to meet his continuing education requirements.