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Kandiyohi County 2023 tax levy increases 2.9% following board approval

The Kandiyohi County Board gave its final approval for the 2023 tax levy, following the Truth-in-Taxation hearing Thursday evening which included a public presentation on next year's budget and the process the county uses to create the budget.

Kandiyohi County Board during Dec 2 2022 Truth in Taxation hearing.JPG
The Kandiyohi County Board unanimously approved the 2023 tax levy following the Truth-in-Taxation public hearing Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022.
Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — A process that began in May was concluded Thursday evening during the Kandiyohi County Truth-in-Taxation meeting. The County Board unanimously approved the 2023 tax levy, the final step in creating and implementing next year's budget.

The tax levy, paid for through property taxes, totals $36,362,370, which is a 2.9%, or $1,026,666, increase over the 2022 levy. The main driving force for the increase is employee wages and benefits. However, rising costs for everything from health and human services programs to public works equipment and facility maintenance projects also factored into the need for the county to increase the tax levy.

"We are paying more for labor, paying more for health insurance, for snowplows, for snowplow blades. It is frustrating," said Commissioner Roger Imdieke. "It is just the way the world works."

The county's total budget for 2023 is a balanced $83,868,400. The county will be using $600,000 in reserves to help pay for improvements at the landfill. Kandiyohi County is also receiving $2,476,130 in county program aid from the state, which helped keep the tax levy down.

"We use our county program aid 100%, dollar for dollar, for tax relief," said County Administrator Larry Kleindl.

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Work on the next year's budget begins in May. Budget packets are sent out to department heads and, by June, they've completed the first draft of their department's upcoming budget. Then there are weeks of meetings, both with staff and with the chair and vice chair of the County Board, to better focus the budget.

The overarching goal is to keep any tax levy increase as low as possible. Kleindl said the county staff also keeps an eye on future expenses, such as major facility projects or equipment purchases, and begins saving for those a few years beforehand. This helps keep increases small instead of making significant jumps all at once.

"It is an ongoing process," Kleindl said.

In September, the County Board certified the proposed tax levy, which cements the maximum increase for the next year. The tax levy increase can only be reduced prior to final approval, although this year the levy stayed the same. The public hearing, called Truth in Taxation, is held in December.

"This meeting tonight is being held to give taxpayers a chance to voice their concerns about the proposed 2023 budget," Kleindl said.

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At Thursday's hearing, there were several members of the public on hand. Ron Christianson, of Willmar, said he wanted to voice his dissatisfaction with rising taxes and property values, though he understands the impact of inflation on those numbers.

"We come here out of frustration, as you can understand," Christianson said. "We are just frustrated."

The frustration was understood by the board, but it was also said that the county is only part of a property owner's tax bill, though usually the largest part. For every dollar of property taxes, on average the county receives 46.6%, the school district gets 23.5%, city or township gets 23%, state gets 5.1% and other organizations such as the Economic Development Commission or the Housing Redevelopment Authority receive 1.8%, Kleindl said. That exact breakdown can change from property to property depending on the increases from school or city levies.

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"We are really trying to keep that budget down as much as possible," but there is only so much the county can do since it has to fund so many different departments and programs, said Commissioner Corky Berg.

In his last budget cycle as county administrator before retirement early next year, Kleindl thanked the staff and the County Board for all their help over the years and for being good stewards of the county's tax dollars.

"There are a lot of factors that go into it," Kleindl said. "The bottom line is almost all the budget and the stuff we do is about people and public safety. That is where your dollars are going."

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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