9/10/2021 11:42:00 AM County Board backs levy hike on split vote
The county local levy for next year was set at a maximum increase of 5.75 percent last week on a split Board vote. The budget committee had brought a recommended 7.33 percent levy increase to the meeting, but last minute arguments from Chair Chris DuBose, and Commissioners Dunne and Montzka prevailed.
Commissioner Mike Robinson first motioned to adopt the preliminary levy at the seven percent, which failed 2-3, with he and Commissioner Rick Greene in favor.
Greene said staff put a lot of work into developing the costlier proposal. He said the county needs to enact “realistic” budgeting. Not addressing current county needs only increases the pricetag in the future, he added.
Robinson asked what line items the three in favor of the lower preliminary levy number can support cutting.
Chair DuBose stated he was “not comfortable” all along with the 7.3 percent. He hopes the county will come out of on-going contract negotiations in good shape. The 5.75 percent might even be considered as the starting point. Between now and December, when the final levy is set, there may be room to revise more. (This preliminary fall levy is adopted to basically have something to put on tax statements being mailed out in fall. The prelimnary can not increase but can be reduced.)
Commissioner Dunne observed that the justification for the seven percent was founded on “crude assumptions” the budget committee used and she will press for a more “business” approach to budgeting.
Commissioner Montzka noted the millions of dollars in American Recovery Act funds the county still has unspent. He has concerns over the struggles in coming out of the economic pressures of the intense covid phase. As for where he would reduce the levy, he said the county has spent lots of money on road work recently and he could see slowing the growth in that line item.
Commissioner Robinson responded that he’d want to start that approach on projects slated for Montzka’s district.
The levy as projected will go to $44,476,078. It is part of various state, federal aids and grant revenues that combine to support a total county budget of $78.4 million.
The public comment opportunity will be December 1 at 7 p.m.
In other business: ~ The vacancy on the Planning Commission left by Jim Froberg’s retirement was filled on a 5-0 vote for Kelly Corbin. In answer to Commissioner Robinson’s concern that there’s a rumor she works for the county, staff informed the Board Corbin had volunteered in the Chisago County Attorney’s office for a time but is not involved there any more.
~ A “rutting failure” creating hazardous conditions, on County Road 11 between Kost Park and County Road 14, is getting emergency repair.
The $208,000 fix is the low bid from St Cloud Asphalt TechnologiesCorp. and payment is coming out of seal coat monies. ~ Commissioners Marlys Dunne and Ben Montzka volunteered to sit on an advisory Buildings & Grounds Committee. Their job is to review projects and unmet needs of the county’s 13 structures and sift through technical details to make recommendations to the Board for budgeted items.
~ The Wyoming historic site and veterans memorial project would benefit from funding by the county along the lines of previous county support given to the All County Veterans Memorial in Lindstrom. Wyoming City Administrator Robb Linwood and Mayor Lisa Iverson presented their case and said the city is about two-thirds of the way to the project funding goal of $350,000.
On a motion by Commissioner Robinson the request was forwarded to the HRA/EDA Board to consider a funding recommendation.
~ In the HHS Director’s report he reminded the Board the Citizen Review Panel is seeking members. See application details on the county website. The panel serves in an advisory capacity on child protection matters, and meets on an as-needed basis, generally monthly.
Covid 19 still present The HHS Director, Robert Benson also said the increase in hospital admissions locally related to covid and variants are “alarming” in the days prior to last week’s county board meeting. Admissions were the highest weekly numbers since the end of November 2020.