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Kandiyohi County approves 2021 budget and levy increase of only 1%

Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners approved the 2021 budget and tax levy following the Truth-in-Taxation public hearing Tuesday evening. The levy will go up 1.16 percent over the 2020 levy, the lowest increase since 1999.

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The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners approved the 2021 tax levy and budget Tuesday night. The levy is set to increase 1.16 percent over the 2020 levy. Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — Establishing the annual budget is a months-long process in Kandiyohi County, one that starts in May. It takes the cooperation of all departments and staff to create a budget that will both meet the needs of the county and the public it serves while keeping any property tax hikes low.

"As we started going through the budget, one of the concerns was keeping the budget relatively flat," said Kandiyohi County Administrator Larry Kleindl, during Tuesday's Truth-in-Taxation public hearing.

The meeting was a chance for the public to ask any questions or share concerns about the proposed budget or levy, though no one spoke up at the meeting. Those who wanted to speak specifically about their property valuations or taxes were able to make appointments with the correct county staff.

Following the hearing, the County Board approved the budget and tax levy unanimously. The $78.3 million budget is balanced, but will require the use of reserve funds.

"To keep the levy low, the plan is to take $1.6 million out of reserves," Kleindl said. The reserves will help pay for a new cell at the Kandiyohi County landfill, which will cost over $2 million.

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Thanks to keeping expenses as flat as possible, plus the use of reserve funds, the county was able to pass the second lowest levy increase in nearly 20 years. The approved 2021 levy is $34,813,214, a 1.16 percent increase over the 2020 levy.

"This is the lowest levy (increase) we have had since 1999," Kleindl said.

Also helping keep the levy low is the annual allocation of county program aid from the state. Kandiyohi County is set to receive $2.3 million from the state for 2021. Without the program aid, the county would need to make up that money, most likely through raising taxes.

"Kandiyohi County uses program aid as a dollar-for-dollar match for property tax relief," Kleindl said. "We are very proud of the fact that we use those dollars and pass it along as property tax relief."

In an attempt to avoid any big surprises through the year, such as an unexpected equipment purchase or project, the county tries to budget at least five years in advance. Each year the county puts aside a little bit at a time, so when the purchase is needed, the money is there.

"We try to plan years ahead," Kleindl said.

Kleindl said most of the increase in spending for 2021 is from labor costs. It is money well spent though.

"They have to do with salaries and benefits of our employees, which are one of our greatest assets," Kleindl said.

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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