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Goodhue County Board passes .08 levy increase

Goodhue County Board approved its 2011 budget and property tax levy Tuesday, increasing the levy by .08 percent. Next year's levy -- $26,186,658 -- represents a $200,000 increase compared to what was collected this year.

The levy would have been higher, but the county made a number of budget cuts, privatized a health care program and asked for employee concessions, Goodhue County Administrator Scott Arneson said.

"It would have been nice if we could cut more, but it would probably jeopardize the operations of the county," Commissioner Richard Samuelson said.

Two of the five county commissioners, Ted Seifert and Ron Allen, voted against the levy hike.

Seifert proposed delaying the purchase of an $188,000 snowplow to help avoid increasing the levy.

Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel said the county should not delay the purchase.

He said in general delaying capital purchases will only force a future board to raise the county's levy by an unreasonable amount. Arneson backed Rechtzigel's argument, saying in his four years as administrator the county has underfunded its capital budget every year.

In a retort, Seifert said there are people in the county who may need to replace their cars but can't afford it and can't simply order more cash.

Meanwhile, Allen expressed concern about the 2011 budget's use of cash reserves.

The budget passed Tuesday.

Under the 2011 budget, the county will use $454,419 of its cash reserves, known as fund balance, in order to help fund several operations and buy the snowplow.

Allen said he wasn't comfortable using the county's cash reserves given that the state might again reduce aid payments to counties, as has happened in recent years.

Arneson attempted to ease Allen's concerns, saying the county would have time to react if state aid dollars are cut. He also said the amount reserve cash being used was marginal compared to the total reserve fund.

Municipalities keep large amounts of cash reserves to cash flow throughout the year and some use reserves as a safety net.