LS County commissioners lower tax hike to 5%

Residents in Le Sueur County can expect to pay less in county taxes than the amount printed on estimated tax statements just a couple weeks ago. At the Budget and Levy meeting (formerly known as Truth-in-Taxation) held Tuesday evening, Dec. 11, the five commissioners voted in a split decision to reduce the tax levy from the proposed 9 percent increase discussed in September, down to 5 percent.

County Administrator Darrell Pettis presented the proposed 2013 budget and levy to the audience in a comprehensive 25-page document showing that the .65 percent tax increase would increase the county’s total expenditure budget from $30,796,551 in 2012, to $30,996,309 for 2013. He informed the audience that initially, the levy was set at 12 percent, but through budget meetings with the goal of lowering that number, it was dropped to 9 and then to 5 percent.

Pettis commented on how Program Aid from the State of Minnesota has been greatly reduced over the past few years, resulting in fewer dollars for county expenditures. The proposal showed exactly where the levied tax dollars would be spent and included Road & Bridge, Human Services, County Fair, Building, Extension Services, Park, Regional Library, Bonded Indebtedness, Victim Witness, Capital Improvement and Environmental Services. He also cited health insurance and a standard cost of living increase for employees as reasons for an increase in county expenses.

District 3 Commissioner Joe Doherty opened the Public Hearing for the proposed levy and budget and asked for comments and questions from the audience, of which there were none. The levy was voted on first, and was approved with a 3-2 split vote. District 1 Commissioner John Grimm and District 4 Commissioner Clifford Wetzel were opposed.

Grimm explained his position by saying: "Although I appreciate the effort in lowering the levy to five percent, I disagree with the philosophy that taxes can go up every year. We should set it at zero and make that happen."

District 5 Commissioner Steven Rohlfing followed that by commenting on the increased costs for roads and services, stating: "Five percent seems large but equitable to the needs of our county. I don’t want to sacrifice services. I’m happy with the five percent."

District 2 Commissioner Joe Connolly added: "We’re a long way from where we started."

The commissioners then voted on the proposed 2013 budget, which was approved with a 4-1 vote, Grimm opposed.