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Truth in taxation hearing held on county’s proposed $58.9M budget for 2014

WILLMAR — A truth in taxation hearing held Thursday on Kandiyohi County’s proposed 2014 budget and levy generated no public testimony.

The proposed $58.9 million county budget is about $760,000 more than this year’s budget.

The added expenses are because of a 1.5 percent cost of living increase for employees, higher health insurance costs, an increase in law enforcement pensions and a decrease in some state and federal grants.

But added revenues, including a new wheelage tax that will generate nearly $400,000 for county road projects, increased county program aid and anticipated savings of about $178,000 because some county expenditures will now be exempt from sales taxes, helped keep the budget and levy increases in check.

The proposed net tax levy of $29 million represents a 1.17 percent increase, which is the lowest net levy increase the county has seen in recent history.

“It’s the lowest increase on the books,” said Kandiyohi County Administrator Larry Kleindl, during a presentation at the truth in taxation hearing.

The county’s gross tax levy of $30.8 million will be offset with $1.8 million in county program aid.

That’s more aid than what the county has received in the last three years but it’s less than the county’s annual allocations from 2005-2010.

The additional county program aid is “a nice increase” but the county is “still receiving less county program aid than we have in the past,” Kleindl said.

Counties receive the aid as part of a reimbursement agreement for operating programs on behalf of federal and state governments, said Kleindl. “In tough economic times, that’s the first thing that gets cut.”

County Board Chairman Harlan Madsen praised Kleindl, county department heads, supervisors and employees for keeping department budgets flat or just minor increases.

“The credit must go to the individuals on the front lines,” Madsen said. “This is a joint effort.”

Every budget decision the county makes affects programs and people, said Madsen.

He said it “takes a lot of guts” to make a “lot of tough decisions” to devise an efficient county budget.

Madsen thanked the employees present at the hearing.

“You do yeoman’s work every single day,” he said.

The commissioners will take final action on the budget and levy at their Dec. 17 meeting.

Carolyn Lange

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

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