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County trims 2013 budget

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WORTHINGTON -- Three months after Nobles County Commissioners set a not-to-exceed levy for 2013, they reviewed information during a special Truth in Taxation hearing Thursday night that shows a pared down overall levy increase from 6.5 percent to 4.83 percent.

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Interim County Administrator Vijay Sethi said they will continue to work on specific areas of the budget leading up to the board's adoption of the levy at its Dec. 18 meeting.

The proposed county budget for 2013 is $28,284,230, with projected property taxes to be collected in 2013 of $11,254,383.

Since the Sept. 4 board meeting, Sethi said the budget committee worked on a plan to make up for the lost revenue of rental income coming from the KidsPeace Prairie Academy. The county had been collecting payment because the facility was rented under contract -- even though it has been vacant for a couple of years. When that contract expired at the end of June, the payments stopped coming.

As the county continues to work on leads to fill the building, Sethi said they need to cover the bond payments on the facility. As a result, more than $460,000 in wind energy production tax income will be moved into the general budget in 2013. The remaining $200,000 will be put in reserves.

At the same time, Sethi said Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder has agreed to delay $300,000 in equipment replacement requests.

Remaining in the budget are funds for the creation of four new county positions -- a finance director, GIS coordinator, accounts technician in Community Services and a building maintenance person. There was also agreement Thursday night to expand the Veterans Service Officer position from .6 time to .8 time, at an added cost of $16,000.

During the public hearing on the county's budget, Sethi pointed out that Nobles County ranks fourth lowest of the nine counties in southwest Minnesota in the amount of taxes per capita, at $526.45. The lowest was Lyon County at $470.45, while the highest taxes, per capita, were $902.13 in Jackson County.

Not surprisingly, the highest amount of taxes paid in Nobles County is generated from agricultural land.

"You're seeing an increase in ag values -- 25 percent last year alone," said Assessor Joe Udermann. "That's what's accounting for those numbers."

Property tax dollars collected by Nobles County are used for general operation of county services.

Human Services gets the largest share, followed by general government, public safety, corrections (jail), debt service, highway, culture and recreation, public health, conservation of natural resources and economic development.

Discussion on the 2013 budget and levy will continue at 9 a.m., Dec. 18, in the board room on the third floor of the Nobles County Government Center.

In other action, the board:

* Voted to declare all non-essential county offices closed on Dec. 24 to give employees time to spend with their families.

* Authorized payment of $35,458.75 to Jones Caulking and Tuck Pointing for work on the Nobles County Government Center.

* Authorized payment of $22,887.60 to Vetter Johnson Architects for energy efficiency improvement projects in the government center, and approved an agreement with the company for continued service if the library building project moves forward.

* Approved a conditional use permit for Worthington Excavating to continue operation of a stockpile site for sand, gravel, stone, other raw materials and concrete recycling on a parcel of land in Section 34, Worthington Township.

* Approved the fourth quarter appropriation of $7,589.25 to RSVP.

* Approved a request to fill the public health supervisor position vacated by Janet Howard.

* Was introduced to new assessment technician in the assessor's office, Sharon Heidebrink, and new Nobles County 4-H Program Coordinator Melissa Runck.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

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Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer joined the Daily Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington and graduate of Worthington High School, then-Worthington Community College and South Dakota State University, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. At the Daily Globe, Julie covers the agricultural beat, as well as Nobles County government, watersheds, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework (cross-stitch and hardanger embroidery), reading, travel, fishing and spending time with family. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at www.farmbleat.areavoices.com.
(507) 376-7330
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