8/30/2013 10:15:00 AM Board adopts early levy for 2014; final set in December
by DENISE MARTIN
Saying he wasn’t comfortable draining the HHS Department’s bank account to balance the county’s budget in 2014; County Commissioner George McMahon made a motion adjusting the 2014 county levy discussed a couple weeks ago. McMahon increased the preliminary proposed levy by $200,000, so that only $150,000 would need to be borrowed from HHS reserves.
Even boosting it by $200,000 the levy is still proposed at less than the county’s 2013 levy. McMahon said there’s too many “unknowns” looming in the area of health and human services and he felt a conservative approach would delete pulling the full $350,000 out of reserves. Commissioner Lora Walker argued that the county has spent HHS reserves before, and she had no problem drawing it down. The levy for $31,347, 021 in McMahon’s motion passed 4-1. This is still less than what the county collected as a local levy last year. It’s been several years since the Board has hiked what it collects in local tax, which Chair Ben Montzka commented was unprecedented in county history.
The county budget in total is $58 million, which is about $700,000 more than the total for 2013-- but the difference is made up through outside funding like grants and inter-governmental aid. County Administrator Bruce Messelt noted debt service is nearly $5 million, which is where it has been for a couple of years now, but he called it a “red flag.” The Powerpoint presentation leading up to the commissioners’ vote is on the county webpage in detail: www.co. chisago.mn.us. Messelt added that this year the county heads into levy finalization (December is final levy vote) with all but one bargaining unit agreement complete. Labor relations hit few snags this time around, he added.
Commissioner Mike Robinson made a motion to tack on $10,000 for the Extension line item for 2014 for 4-H programming. He got no second and it died. The Board felt that shifting money within the financial constraint of the adopted levy can be accomplished in coming weeks. There may be line item adjustments in a number of areas. Messelt said for example the budget for insurance covering data practices errors is likely going to go up by about $5,000, he has been advised by the insurance carrier MCIT.
Heartland Express also has an opportunity to leverage state dollars in a 15 local / 85 state percent match, which can be covered shifting a small sum out of Contingency for 2014. Between now and December the proposed levy can not increase, but can be reduced when it is certified for 2014 in December.