Goodhue County commissioners split over initial tax levy
After three attempts, Goodhue County Board tentatively approved the preliminary 2017 budget and levy as presented Tuesday, Sept. 20 — thanks to a swing vote by Commissioner Jason Majerus.
Majerus agreed to support the 7.61 percent preliminary levy increase proposed by county staff but cautioned that he will not vote for it when it comes time to finalize the levy in December. The board can set a lower levy than the preliminary amount, but it cannot go higher.
Commissioners voted 3-2 to set the preliminary budget at $59,749,521 with a levy of $31,151,526. Commissioners Ron Allen and Ted Seifert voted against it.
County Administrator Scott Arneson first opened the floor for questions on the budget and levy, which the county has been calculating for the past several months.
“That’s the ceiling, you can always go lower than that. We don’t have to box ourselves in. It’s not uncommon that between now and the end of the year that we find numbers that either need to go up or down,” Arneson said about the proposed budget and levy.
An initial vote failed on a 2-3 vote. Seifert voted no, mentioning delaying replacement of snow plows as an option to decrease the levy and budget by $300,000.
“That’s a recipe for disaster,” County Engineer Greg Isakson said of delaying replacement of snow plows.
Allen noted that he would agree to the $300,000 decrease but would prefer to keep the source of the cuts open-ended.
“I don’t want to get to December and we’re making decisions we’re not happy with. Then it really is crunch time,” Allen said. “Hopefully we have agreement in December because you don’t have any time left to make those kind of decisions.”
Board Chair Dan Rechtzigel voiced frustration with the discussion and held the commissioners accountable for having enough time to review the numbers before the meeting. “Wasn’t there time up to now? Why is it that now all of a sudden that everyone’s going to crack open the budget book?”