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Kandiyohi County adopts preliminary tax levy

WILLMAR — The Kandiyohi County Board adopted a preliminary net property tax levy Tuesday of $32,308,783 for next year — a 1.48 percent increase over this year's levy.

The board's action completes a key step in the development of the annual budget, a process that Larry Kleindl, county administrator, reminded the commissioners is always ongoing.

"The budget process never ends," he said Tuesday.

The process this year began in June with individual budgets submitted by county department heads. Several revisions later, a preliminary budget was presented to the County Board last month.

It will become final when the budget and property tax levy are adopted in late November or early December.

The preliminary budget called for a 1.68 percent increase in the net tax levy for 2018. Further tweaking and adjustments shaved off a couple more tenths of a percent to reach the final figure.

A bump in county program aid, approved by the Minnesota Legislature, also gives Kandiyohi County taxpayers some relief.

The county has been allocated $1.9 million in program aid for next year, which has been used to offset the overall property tax burden. Without it, the property tax levy would have been $34.2 million.

"Those are dollars-for-dollars tax relief," Kleindl said.

Program aid to Minnesota counties has dwindled for several years. The amount Kandiyohi County will receive next year is a $200,000 increase from this year and represents the largest program aid allocation to the county since the beginning of the decade.

Property tax dollars support just under half of the county's total proposed spending next year of $70.8 million. County officials said the majority of spending increases are driven by pay and health care benefit costs for the county's 400-some employees.

For the first time, the county is taking a formal, long-term approach to levying for the maintenance of all the county-owned buildings. As part of the budget process, a plan has been developed that outlines all the needs for the next five years and what the expenses are projected to be.

This will enable Kandiyohi County to hold its levy for the building fund at the same level for the next five years, keeping the overall levy more stable and minimizing upward or downward spikes, Kleindl said.

"It gives us a road map," he said.

Preliminary tax levies also were presented Tuesday by the county's two other countywide taxing jurisdictions: the Kandiyohi County Housing and Redevelopment Authority and the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.

The HRA requested a $615,000 tax levy, the same as this year. The EDC sought $514,600, a 3.2 percent increase from this year. The two entities account for the smallest slice of the overall property tax in Kandiyohi County.

The final bill mailed out to property taxpayers next spring also will include the taxes levied by local school districts and cities or townships.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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