County to vote on proposed levy hikeGoodhue County commissioners tentatively agreed on a $200,000 levy hike Monday as they worked to build an outline for the county's 2011 preliminary budget.
Goodhue County commissioners tentatively agreed on a $200,000 levy hike Monday as they worked to build an outline for the county's 2011 preliminary budget.
That would be just under a 1 percent increase over this year's levy, enough to balance next year's budget for now, but not enough, according to preliminary figures, to avoid concessions from county employees.
"We're all going to have to make sacrifices here," said Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel, who proposed the plan.
All but Commissioner Ted Seifert gave at least preliminary support for the plan proposed at Monday's budget workshop meeting in Red Wing.
The board will vote on the 2011 preliminary levy at its next regular meeting Tuesday. Once that dollar amount is sent to the state, the county may lower it but may not raise it.
Along with the levy increase, Rechtzigel proposed $200,000 in concessions from county employees and a $200,000 increase in the county's budgeted amount of state aid in 2011, enough to fill the county's remaining budget gap.
But board members said things will likely change between now and December, when the board will make its final levy request. Ongoing labor negotiations, a proposed plan to contract some county snowplowing services to area townships and uncertainty about how much state aid the county will receive next year all cast doubt on the current numbers carrying through to 2011, they say.
Commissioner Ron Allen said that while he gave the plan a tentative nod on Monday, he plans to weigh conversations with those supportive and those opposed to a levy increase in the days ahead before making up his mind.
"I'm probably going to wait right up until the last minute," he said.
Allen said that he has been feeling pressure from both sides as he decides on an appropriate 2011 levy. Some county employees, he said, support an increased levy to maintain the quality of county services during the economic downturn. Area business owners, on the other hand, have said that even a small tax increase would be too much to bear in the current climate.
At least one commissioner, however, was set in his opposition to any increase in the county levy.
Seifert argued that if county residents were being forced to make cutbacks, the county should follow suit. He went so far as to suggest a decrease in the county levy.
"People have had to make sacrifices," he said after the meeting Monday. "Can't this organization respond in kind?"
County officials, however, said that the proposed tax increase was tame compared to other counties' increases and to previous years in Goodhue County.
The proposed $200,000 increase compares with a nearly $435,000 average annual hike since 2002, according to county statistics. It is substantially lower than the estimated $838,000 increase that county officials say would be allowable under state law.
"I don't think $200,000 on a $53 million budget is a lot," said County Administrator Scott Arneson. "In fact, I don't think some people would say it's enough."