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Column: County adjusts to new factors in budgeting

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Minnesota State Statue established Sept. 15 as the deadline for counties to certify to the State Auditor their proposed property tax levy for taxes payable in the following year. 

On Sept. 3, 2013, the Goodhue County Board set the 2014 preliminary levy for Goodhue County at $27,399,013. This represents an increase of $462,355 (or 1.72 percent) over the amount levied in 2013. 

A number of new factors were considered when shaping the 2014 budget and levy. One being health care. 

We all know Affordable Health Care Act is coming, but what we don’t know is the impact it will have on the county’s overall budget and levy. The county increased health care costs by 6 percent for 2014.

However, in addition to the increase in premiums, the county will face a number of health care “fees” with the implementation of Affordable Health Care Act.

The Affordable Health Care Act has also created additional work for county employees. It is expected that Goodhue County Health and Human Services Department will see an additional 900 clients with this expansion in the health care program.  

Along with the increase in clients, new policies and technology improvements will be implemented. For more information about MNsure go to www.mnsure.org or call 1-855-366-7873. 

Another factor considered was the sales tax exemption savings. The 2013 Minnesota Legislature enacted a new sales tax exemption for some of the purchases made by local governments. This exemption allows counties to purchase tangible personal property and services without paying the state 6.875 percent sales tax, with certain exceptions.

Again, there are still unknowns with the exceptions, yet it was important to reflect some of that savings when constructing the budget. Based on the most recent information available, the county factored in a savings of $225,000 in the overall 2014 general fund budget to account for this savings.

After we have experienced one year with this tax exemption, the savings will be reflected in each departmental budget.

Lastly, the 2013 Minnesota Legislature authorized two new transportation funding options for counties, the wheelage tax and the local option sales tax. These funding options were put in place to help counties pay for new and existing transportation projects. 

Counties had until Aug. 1, 2013, to decide if they wanted to implement these options beginning in 2014. At the July 26, 2013, Goodhue County Board meeting, commissioners decided to move forward with implementation of the wheelage tax beginning in 2014. 

Based on state calculations, Goodhue County could generate approximately $450,000 for local transportation needs. The board will meet in a Committee of the Whole session at 8 a.m. Oct. 15 to discuss options for this new revenue.

The final levy, which can be lower, not higher than the preliminary levy, must be certified to the state by Dec. 28.

Goodhue County will hold their annual budget-public comment meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday Dec. 6 in the Government Center boardroom. This gives the public the opportunity to comment or ask questions on the budget being approved. The final levy will then be approved at the Dec. 17 board meeting.

Scott Arneson

Goodhue County Administrator

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