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Nobles County levy inching downward

WORTHINGTON — During a special three-hour work session Friday, Nobles County commissioners whittled away at a proposed levy increase of 5.69 percent for 2014 by cutting staff requests and building projects and placing more money into the public works budget for road and bridge improvements.

By the end of the work session, the levy increase was lowered to 4.31 percent, although the board has until Dec. 3 to adopt its final levy. Due to printing deadlines, however, the property tax statements to be mailed later this month include the 5.69 percent levy increase.

Commissioner Marv Zylstra said even at 5.69 percent, Nobles County was on the higher side of area counties in setting its not-to-exceed levy. During a District 8 meeting on Thursday, he learned that Cottonwood County set a 3.04 percent not-to-exceed levy, while Jackson was at 5.48 percent, Murray at 3.94 percent, Pipestone at 5.8 percent and Rock at 7.88 percent. Meanwhile, Lincoln County set a 15.33 percent not-to-exceed levy limit and Redwood County had the lowest at a .70 not-to-exceed levy increase.

Changes made Friday that will impact Nobles County’s final levy included denying a request by the county assessor’s office to add two staff — a move that took nearly $92,400 out of the proposed 2014 budget — and the decision to split the construction costs for a garage expansion at the Prairie Justice Center and a new shop at Adrian into two years, which cut another $560,000 from next year’s budget.

Items approved by consensus Friday included:

* Adding two new positions, including a public health nurse and community outreach worker, in the Community Services Department at an anticipated 2014 cost of $14,000. The cost represents about a quarter of the total salary for the positions, with the remainder offset by federal grant funding tied to programs.

* Eliminating a $50,000 request from the Nobles County Library to be set aside for a new building project. This was the same amount set aside in 2013, and it was decided there were still funds available in that account.

* Dedicating $40,000 toward access control and security programs as requested by the county courts system. The $40,000 will cover the base system, which can be expanded over the years to different county buildings.

* Dedicating $65,000 to upgrading the emergency operations center. There was considerable discussion about this item, including whether the Farmer’s Room was the best place for a training room and emergency operations center. Following discussions about the potential use of the Worthington Fire Hall for trainings, it was decided that Administrator Tom Johnson will have conversations with the city regarding use of space. Meanwhile, the costs to upgrade the EOC could be split between the county’s reserves and the emergency management budget.

* Spending approximately $30,000 on new software for the human resources department. The company who provided the current program went out of business, necessitating a change.

* Dedicating $125,000 to roads and bridges — this is in addition to the $200,000 the county will collect from the wheelage tax for transportation projects. 

* Reducing appropriations from the amounts requested. At this time, the appropriations are as follows: Civil Air Patrol, $1,000; Manna Food Pantry, $2,500; Southwest Minnesota Tourism $1,000; Southwest Minnesota Arts Council, $1,250; Nobles County Historical Society, $28,000; Nobles County Art Center, $7,500; RSVP, $30,998; Nobles County Fair Association, $22,221; Wind Energy Task Force, $2,000; Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp., $37,600; Small Business Development Center, $2,000; and the Southwest Minnesota Foundation, $4,076.

There was quite a bit of discussion Friday regarding potential partnerships with other agencies to improve efficiencies, whether it’s working with cities, school districts or the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

“My goal, within 10 years, is to get the city, county and MnDOT to have a shared public works facility,” said County Administrator Tom Johnson, adding that he’s making progress with the city.

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

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

(507) 376-7330