Commissioners to discuss preliminary tax levyGoodhue County commissioners are scheduled to approve a preliminary 2010 tax levy amount Tuesday.
By: Jen Cullen, The Republican Eagle
Goodhue County commissioners are scheduled to approve a preliminary 2010 tax levy amount Tuesday.
County administrative staff are proposing a 2.35 percent jump over this year's levy. Commissioners can whittle away at that number - but not raise it - until Dec. 15.
Large state aid cuts already have forced staff to carve hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the county's 2010 budget.
Commissioner Ted Seifert, who represents part of Red Wing, said staff need to cut more as Goodhue County residents continue weathering tough financial times.
"For the county to say we just can't restrain our spending enough to get down to where we have a 0 percent increase is just ridiculous," Seifert said. "We should not raise taxes on our constituents."
In a report to the board, administrative staff warn that anything less than a $613,000 tax levy increase would push financial difficulties into future years.
Staff expect even more county program aid reductions next year, causing continued program and capital reductions.
Seifert said trimming the budget further without affecting services is possible.
"I think that we have some inefficiencies still operating and we need to continue to go after them," he said. "We need to continue to look."
Commissioner Richard Samuelson said he will vote for the "minimal" tax levy increase.
He fears funding for fairs, libraries and parks will be next to go if budget slashing continues.
"It'd be nice if we didn't have to have an increase," Samuelson said. "It's not a good thing but what are you going to do? We've already cut a lot."
Seifert said he is confident county department heads can find more ways to trim their budgets. He said the preliminary tax levy should not start with an increase and should be set at zero.
"Then everyone knows exactly what their job is ... and they know by December they need to bring us the numbers that get us where we need to be."
Samuelson already has his sights set on next year.
The Cannon Falls-area commissioner said a tax levy increase will only spare taxpayers future financial pain.
"If we don't have that slight increase ... 2011 looks much worse," Samuelson said.
Commissioners on Tuesday will also adopt a revised 2009 budget and capital plan that includes commissioner, sheriff and county attorney salary reductions and unfilled positions.
The board will open up budget discussions to the public at the Dec. 1 meeting.