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Modest levy increase for 2013 reviewed at Kandiyohi County, Minn.'s, truth in taxation hearing

Val Svor of the Kandiyohi County Assessor’s Office, left, discusses the valuation of property near Norway Lake with property owner Paul Rock during a meeting in the hallway near where the annual truth in taxation meeting was held at the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services building in Willmar. Although the meeting Tuesday was held to discuss taxation, some residents came to discuss questions about property assessments. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR —  Kandiyohi County’s proposed $58.2 million budget for 2013, which is less than it was for the two previous years, was given a public review Tuesday during the truth in taxation hearing.

The budget includes a gross levy increase of $30.1 million, which is the lowest increase in at least two decades.

That is offset by a $1.48 million payment from the county aid program, for a net levy of $28.6 million. But that county aid is less than what it was in the past.

This year the aid was cut by $71,000, which means the net levy will increase 1.89 percent over 2012.

In the last nine years Kandiyohi County has lost $790,000 in county program aid, said County Administrator Larry Kleindl.

The state has given counties aid since the 1980 for compensation for taking over state programs, Kleindl said. But that compensation has been steadily decreasing even though the county continues to provide the services.

There had been about half-dozen taxpayers in the audience when the hearing began at 6 p.m. but it was quickly obvious they came to the meeting for the wrong reason.

Chairman Richard Larson stated that the hearing was to discuss the county’s proposed budget and individuals who wished to ask questions or make comments about how the county was spending money were welcome to stay.

But questions about personal property tax values would not be discussed at the hearing and individuals with those questions should step out into the hallway and talk with a county assessor, Larson said.

After a few moments the residents in the audience — most with their property tax statements in hand — got up and went into the hallway.

Because of the usual confusion about the purpose of a taxation hearing, the commissioners have had a county assessor attend the meeting to meet with people to answer their personal property tax questions.

Larson reminded them that questions about property values need to be addressed during board of equalization hearings that are held in the spring.

There were no public comments made on the county expenditures or its net levy of $28.6 million, which is what county taxpayers will pay.

The budget process started in early June when Kleindl met with department heads to discuss preliminary expenditures. Those dollar requests were pared down slightly in July and nearly all the departments’ budget were at or near the same level as in 2012. Several departments decreased expenditures, like the jail, because of fewer prisoners and fewer employees.

On Sept. 4 the commissioners adopted the initial budget which prohibited the county from raising the levy after that point.

The commissioners will take final action on approving the budget at their next meeting on Dec. 18.

If they decide to make any changes in the budget after the truth in taxation hearing they would have to call a special meeting. The deadline to approve the budget is Dec. 30.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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