County takes final action on 2011 budgetWORTHINGTON — Nobles County commissioners took final action on the 2011 budget and levy during their Tuesday morning meeting, making no changes since conducting the public Truth in Taxation hearing a week ago. The overall budget was approved at $23,405,602, with the property tax levy approved at $9,808,556.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Nobles County commissioners took final action on the 2011 budget and levy during their Tuesday morning meeting, making no changes since conducting the public Truth in Taxation hearing a week ago.
The overall budget was approved at $23,405,602, with the property tax levy approved at $9,808,556.
Commissioner David Benson said he was concerned about setting the levy increase at 2.51 percent — a decrease from the 4.5 percent levy increase commissioners proposed in September.
“I’ll vote for the levy at that level, but I do have some misgivings,” Benson said. “I would like to see a little bit more cushion.”
Benson’s concern was in regard to bridge bonding money and if the state didn’t have money available, the county would need to pick up the tab.
“If we don’t get bonding money … we are looking at a severe situation,” said Benson. “That 2 percent might do another bridge.”
Board chair Marv Zylstra said he respected Benson’s comments, but said “there’s always a lot of if's out there.”
“We’re at a point where we have to work within our means in putting together our budget,” Zylstra said.
“Next year we might hope we can put money into the roads,” added Commissioner Diane Thier.
Commissioner Gene Foth, who served on the budget committee with Zylstra, said some of the counties in District 8 were planning to set a 0 percent levy increase for 2011.
“We’re going to 2.51 (percent),” Foth said. “These are unprecedented times. We’ve never experienced where our paycheck from the state is going to be 28 percent less than it was in the past.
“I think there’s light at the end of the tunnel and things will improve, but until it does, we need to keep our belts tightened as much as possible,” he added.
In approving the 2011 budget, Thier said commissioners worked to do the most they could with the least amount of money, which is why they chose to cut some positions for the coming year.
“Nobody wants their taxes to go up, but yet everybody wants us to keep the positions we have,” she said. “It just doesn’t work — you can’t have it both ways.”
In other action, the board:
* Approved a resolution prioritizing the bridge replacements in Nobles County. Public Works director Stephen Schnieder said there are 11 bridges on the list, including five on the county state aid highway system, one on the county road system and five on the township road system.
* Learned that some compromises have been made between the county’s Human Services agency and the Daycare Association, including that variances will be allowed up to 60 days, with an option for a provider to renew the variance for a consecutive 60 days if needed. In addition, the implementation date for the new policy will be pushed back to June 1, 2011, pending board approval. Commissioners anticipate discussing the matter in February, after the Human Services Advisory Board has taken action on the matter.
“I think this 120 days total is really good, and I can understand how people certainly feel,” said Commissioner Diane Thier. “I think if they have four months to come up with something, that will help the parents.”
* Approved the Geographic Information System plan as presented by Emergency Management Director Dan Anderson. Work on the GIS plan began eight years ago as the county works to create a comprehensive records management system. The three-phase approach will include updating the land records management system, creating the web application (GIS component) and developing a maintenance plan.
* Approved changes made to the Rock-Nobles Community Corrections Joint Powers Agreement, changing the Nobles County references to Rock County to signify the switch in administrative services for the agency. Rock County will become the fiscal host for RNCC as of Jan. 1. A request was also made to transfer some of the funds from the agency’s account to its new account in Rock County before the end of the year to aid in the transition process.
* Set in motion the process to declare two parcels — in Ellsworth and one in Round Lake — as tax-forfeited properties. Those cities will have the first option to purchase the parcel once the declarations are complete.
* Approved end-of-the-year actions including authorization for the auditor-treasurer to pay the bills without prior board approval. All bills will be presented at the first meeting in January. In addition, commissioners approved borrowing money from the county’s general fund to balance out each of the individual ditch systems that currently show a negative balance. This is done for accounting purposes.
* Approved a change in the county’s campsite policy for its two public campgrounds. Seasonal campsite rental payments will now be required to be paid in full by Aug. 10, with payment dates on the 10th day of May, June, July and August.
* Approved contract renewals between Nobles County Human Services and the Southwestern Mental Health Center, Hope Haven/The Achievement Center, Worthington police department fraud investigation and interpreter services.
* Approved a resolution for the Southwest Minnesota Trail prioritization plan.
* Presented a certificate of appreciation to Commissioner Gene Foth for his willingness to fill the temporary vacancy on the board through the end of 2010.
* Approved several Human Resources items, including the flexible benefit plan, position classifications, compensation, payroll and time reporting amendments and an amendment to the county’s compensation plan.