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A worker operates a front loader Tuesday at the county landfill. The county is delaying the purchase of equipment, like this loader, as part of a process to trim its budget due to unallotment. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

County ups levy

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WILLMAR -- Kandiyohi County's tax levy will increase 1.76 percent next year. Nearly all of the increase -- 1.37 percent -- is to help make up for the unallotment of $668,000 in state funds.

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County Administrator Larry Kleindl told the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that the actual increase in operating expenses for 2010 accounts for three-tenths of 1 percent of the net tax levy.

"That's pretty darn flat," said Kleindl prior to the commissioners' unanimous approval of the proposed budget and levy.

The net levy for 2010 is $25,939,905. The gross levy of $28,161,200 includes $2.2 million in state program aid.

The proposed budget is set at $56.6 million, which is a decrease of $3.6 million from 2009.

A public information meeting on the budget will be held at 7 p.m. on Dec. 1.

The commissioners praised Kleindl for starting the challenging budgeting process early and for involving staff in the process.

"It's been a long process and you started this months ago," said Chairman Dennis Peterson.

Commissioner Richard Falk said he didn't "necessarily agree with each dollar spent" in the proposed budget but said Kleindl "did a marvelous job" crafting a tight budget and levy.

"I couldn't have done it without all the great staff," said Kleindl.

Tuesday was the sixth public meeting held on the budget process, said Kleindl. "This has been a good process."

In January, Kleindl met with department heads to start identifying areas that could be cut. In June the commissioners held a retreat to set priorities for the programs and discuss "how we do business in Kandiyohi County."

Kleindl said nearly every department submitted a budget levy that was at, or near, the 2009 rate. That provided the starting point for additional reductions. "There were a lot of steps to get to where we're at today."

The major budget adjustments include:

- $850,000 reduction to the building fund;

- $490,000 reduction in capital equipment expenses;

- $1.3 million reduction to the public works department;

- $1,371,556 in reduced expenditures from the general fund/solid waste fund.

In addition, $371,800 was taken from the family services reserve fund to help cover some of the unallotment of state funds. Kleindl said he hopes to eventually replace those funds when the state's economy improves.

Accounting strategies were used to make timely purchases that saved $280,000.

County employees made personal sacrifices. Cost-of-living raises were cut in half, from 3 percent to 1.5 percent, overtime expenses will be reduced, layoffs will take place and employees will have two days of unpaid furlough.

Included in the proposed 2010 budget is a $450,000 allocation for a new communication system for all the county buildings.

The 20-year-old system is expensive to operate and maintain, is too old to find replacement parts, is at capacity for phone and voice mail boxes and could leave the county without a communication system if a failure occurs, said Jay Kroona, information technology coordinator.

While reluctant to include the expense during a tough economy, Kleindl said the county has delayed replacing the system for several years and it would be irresponsible to put the county at risk if the system failed and could not be repaired.

A new communication system would save the county about $35,000 a year in reduced service and maintenance fees and provide redundancy that's not available now, said Kroona. It would accommodate future growth and utilize new technology that could even allow employees to take their telephones home and, if they had high-speed DSL at their home, they could be accessed at home through their work telephone number. That could be useful in case of a disaster when people may need to work from home.

Kleindl said it's likely the system won't cost as much as has been budgeted.

The commissioners agreed Tuesday to advertise for bids.

In other action, the commissioners approved a 30-year conditional use permit for JMBI LLC of New London to operate a 282-acre gravel pit in Roseville Township. The pit will be opened in 80-acre segments, with one being closed before another can be opened.

Because of the size of the mine, the company was required by the state to complete an environmental impact statement.

Some tidbits for an info box

The gross 2010 levy is $28,161,200.

minus the state program aid of $2,221,295

equals the net tax levy of $25,939,905

Tax capacity rates:

54.243

57.865

2008 57.663

2007 60.931

2006 65.319

History of levy increases in Kandiyohi County

7.92 percent

1.71 percent

2.88 percent

4.41 percent

5.72 percent

4.09 percent

7.00 percent

1.76 percent

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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