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Budget cutting leads to 2.98 percent levy increase in Nobles County

WORTHINGTON -- After setting a not-to-exceed levy of 5.89 percent in September, Nobles County commissioners serving with administration officials on the county's budget committee have whittled the levy increase down to 2.98 percent.

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WORTHINGTON - After setting a not-to-exceed levy of 5.89 percent in September, Nobles County commissioners serving with administration officials on the county’s budget committee have whittled the levy increase down to 2.98 percent.

The levy, which is the amount of money needed to operate county government in 2017, is now slated to be $13,189,914, up from $12,808,042 - equating to the 2.98 percent increase. Meanwhile, the county’s overall budget for 2017 is proposed at $34,393,328, up less than 1 percent from the 2016 budget of $34,372,047.

The budget and levy information was presented in a public hearing Thursday evening, though few members of the public attended. Most in the gallery were department heads.

Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson walked through the budget presentation. He said commissioners will take final action during their meeting Dec. 20.

“The budget process starts every year in July - that gives us half a year of spending, which is usually a pretty good tool to start predicting the coming year,” Johnson said.

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Even when the preliminary levy was set, commissioners knew they wanted the final levy increase to be considerably lower, making the overall tax impact less of a burden to county residents.

“The budget committee continued to work on the budget and bring it down to a point that’s acceptable and positive for the community so that we can continue to do our jobs and not spend too much money doing it,” Johnson said.

Within the overall budget, general government, public works and the library will see slight increases in levy funds for operation in 2017, while community services and debt service will see a drop in levy dollars. Like 2016, commissioners will levy $117,000 to address tax-forfeited properties.

As part of the budget hearing, Johnson noted that Nobles County ranks 56 of Minnesota’s 87 counties in tax levy per capita, with No. 1 being the highest tax levy. He also said Nobles County ranks 74th among Minnesota counties for the average amount of tax paid on a $200,000 home.

Helping to lower the tax burden for county residents, aside from money collected from the wind energy production tax, is the amount of county program aid received from the state. Johnson said while Nobles County anticipates receiving more county program aid in 2017, that amount is still 40 percent less than what was received in 2005.

Primary factors driving the 2.98 percent levy increase are the rising costs of health insurance, increased salaries and benefits for county employees, increased costs for products and services, a slight staff increase and decreased revenues.

“I think the department heads did a very good job managing the expenses and keeping (the levy increase) low,” Johnson said. “...The wind production tax helps us balance our levy quite a bit.”

Nobles County residents, who received their proposed property tax statements arrive in the mail this fall, should realize those numbers were based on the 5.89 percent not-to-exceed levy. Once the county board adopts the proposed 2.98 percent levy increase, the amount of taxes identified on those statements will be cut nearly in half.

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New property tax statements will be mailed out in March with the corrected levy information.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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