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Tax levy freeze fails 3-2

After about an 11-minute discussion, the Goodhue County Board decided it was not yet time to vote on a tax levy for 2018.

While discussing new and old business, Commissioner Jason Majerus made a motion to set the preliminary levy for 2018 at a 0 percent increase from the current year. This would mean the county couldn't raise the levy.

Rather than wait until September, like County Board typically does each year, the topic was put on the table whether it was time to start thinking about the levy or to wait until later in the year.

"As your administrator, I would not recommend that you would set a preliminary levy without listening to the professionals in this organization," warned County Administrator Scott Arnesson. "I would not box yourself in for the entire year. The last time this was done, it had caused quite a few ill-effects."

Arneson added that this action would require $1 million in staffing cuts.

"People want to keep more money in their own pocket. It can be done — businesses do it all the time, governments do it, households do it," Majerus argued. "It has been done in the past, the sky didn't fall when it was done twice in the past. Setting it now, yes it boxes us in, but we have the whole year, we can make adjustments."

While it was evident that saving taxpayer money is on the forefront of Majerus' mind, three commissioners felt it necessary to consider how dangerous it may be to set a levy so soon.

"While it's applaudable to want to keep the tax levy at zero, it's not based on anything factual, It's just based on 'I'd like to keep it at zero,'" Commissioner Brad Anderson said. "If you bring forth the factual data, I'm here to listen. But I haven't heard it in the last two years, and I certainly haven't in the first few days of 2017."

County Chairman Ron Allen recommended Majerus set the 0 percent levy increase as his County Board goal for 2017. The new commissioners saw both sides of the argument, Barney Nesseth siding with Majerus on the zero increase, arguing that growth should play a larger role, while Paul Drotos noted that there was no way for him to vote on something like this just three days into the year.

"I believe goals are a good thing, but again, I have to submit this needs some thoughtful discussion and experience on my part," Drotos said. "My thought is there's a procedure in effect, and September seems to be three-quarters of the way through the period. It seems to me that's a very logical time."

Allen requested a roll call vote, which resulted in the determining vote resting on his shoulders. The motion failed 3-2, Nesseth and Majerus voting for it.

Kit Murray

Kit Murray joined Red Wing Republican Eagle in Aug. 2016, covering government, transportation and public safety. She is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead with a degree in photojournalism and philosophy. 

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