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6.8 percent levy increase certified for Kandiyohi County

WILLMAR -- With the stipulation that the budget would get another close review in December before final approval, the Kandiyohi County Commissioners certified a $60 million budget and a 6.8 percent levy increase on Tuesday.

"This is not my favorite budget," said Commissioner Richard Falk.

He agreed to vote for the increase with the understanding that the board would "take a hard look at it again in December."

Trimming the numbers down to a 6.8 percent increase was "quite a challenge," said Administrator Larry Kleindl.

He told the Commissioners the county needed a 7 percent levy increase but that he "heard your direction loud and clear" for a lower levy.

Through a series of meetings with department heads and two days of meetings as Commissioners reviewed the budget line-by-line Kliendl got the levy to a 6.8 percent increase.

The bulk of the levy increase comes as a result of cost shifts from federal and state governments and the county's decision to become part of the new statewide emergency radio system.

The gross levy for 2009 is $27,672,752, which is a 7 percent increase from 2008.

Once state aid is factored in the total certified levy is $25,401,541, an increase of $1,624,625, or 6.8 percent.

Without the radio system, which is being funded with a $624,400 bond, the levy increase would've been lower than in 2008, said Kleindl.

The Commissioners decided earlier this year that the benefit of the system, called Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response -- or ARMER -- was worth the investment. The radio network is expected to be operational by December. It will allow multiple emergency entities to communicate with each other during a disaster.

Other aspects of the levy increase include a $398,800 federal cost shift to counties for child support and targeted case management programs and an estimated $100,000 cost to counties for child protection legal fees.

Counties were told earlier this year they would have to pay for public defenders for parents in child protection cases. County Attorney Boyd Beccue said the Minnesota County Attorneys Association was going to meet with legislators on Monday to try once again to get state funding for counties. "We're not sitting back on this," said Beccue.

The county will also tap into reserves for $2 million in one-time projects at the landfill, which includes developing a new cell and taking corrective actions on groundwater contamination. Reserves will also be used to purchase a new phone system, estimated at $450,000, to replace the current 20-year old network.

The rest of the budget, said Kleindl, "is relatively flat."

A public hearing on the budget and levy will be held Dec. 16.

In other action:

? The Commissioners were informed that a county-based purchasing group called Prime West has decided not to accept Kandiyohi County as a member. Kandiyohi County was considering joining the 10-county organization for single-payer government-sponsored health insurance coverage for county clients. Kandiyohi County would have doubled the current population of the entire system and Prime West was not ready to take the "risk" of adding such a big partner at this time, said Family Services Director Jay Kieft.

? Sheriff Dan Hartog proposed increasing fees and the mileage rate for serving legal papers, like service of summons, subpoenas and eviction notices. The increases range from $15 to $100, depending on the type of paper. Last year the fees generated $46,000 in revenue. With the new rates it's estimated the fees will generate an additional $30,000.

? The Commissioners were informed that a windmill that was to power an aerator on Nest Lake would be moved by Sept. 11 by the owner. The windmill was erected without a permit and drew complaints from at least one neighbor, who was at the meeting Tuesday. Because the structure was placed below the ordinary low water mark the Department of Natural Resources, and not the county's zoning office, has jurisdiction over the issue. Skip Wright, from the DNR, said the owner agreed to move the windmill.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750