By John Holler
For the last two months, the Wright County Board of Commissioners has been meeting with department heads and doing a line item-by-line item breakdown of the proposed budgets for 2018. At the Sept. 26 meeting of the county board, the commissioners presented their draft budget and levy for 2018.
“This is the culmination of many weeks of budget meetings and, prior to that, a lot of effort but in by departments heads and staff in compiling our budgets and presenting it to you,” County Coordinator Lee Kelly said. “We are required to pass a preliminary budget and levy by Sept. 30. This is the last meeting that you have to take action on that.”
The draft budget came in at $126,252,299 – a $12.4 million increase (10.9 percent) over 2017 and a draft levy, the amount paid through property taxes by county residents and business, at $62,680,533 – a $4.5 million increase (7.73 percent).
Commissioner Mike Potter explained that the county has had numerous additional hire that have needed to be made over the last couple of years to deal with the growth of the county, as well as much needed upgrades to the county road system, Information Technology improvements and mandates from the state as it pertains to human services issues. Potter added that, with the construction of the new courts facility coming starting up in earnest next year, it was important to get some projects and hires out of the way now instead of adding that new-money burden down the road when the county will be taking on other costs.
“With the budget process, it’s a best-guess forecast of what we’re going to need in the future,” Potter said. “The budget goes up, we have growth to offset quite of bit of this. We’re playing catch-up still a little bit. God bless the former commissioners. They were very, very conservative on how they did thing, but they didn’t address the growth issues when the economy went in recession mode.
While the increases are significant, Potter said that the actual tax number won’t increase by 7.73 percent for the vast majority of taxpayers and business owners. If your property value didn’t increase in 2017, you likely won’t notice much of a tax change at all because, thanks to the continued growth of the county, the tax base has expanded and is spread out over more people that it was in 2016.
The board unanimously approved setting the draft budget and levy as presented. Once it was approved, those numbers can’t go any higher.
However, they can be reduced if there are cost-saving measures that are discovered between now and December when the final budget and levy will be approved.
In other items on the Sept. 26 agenda, the board:
Adopted a resolution proclaiming Oct. 1-7 as National 4-H Week in Wright County. 4-H program coordinator Justin Crowley said that 4-H is thriving in Wright County and had a record 640 members in its 22 clubs in 2017. Wright County 4-H Federation President Greta Goede told the board the activities of Wright County 4-H and thanked the board for its continued support of the program.
Set a special board meeting (commonly referred to as the annual Truth In Taxation public hearing) for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 28 to get public input on the final 2018 budget and levy.
Laid over for one week an additional contract with OpenGov for performance measurements, dashboarding and automation of county budgeting data from revenues and expenditures in departments in real time. Commissioner Mark Daleiden said he wanted more time to see the potential for implementation.
Adopted a resolution of intent to develop comprehensive watershed management plans in Wright County. The current watershed plan was passed in 2007 and expires Dec. 31. In 2012, the Board of Water Resources implemented its One Watershed, One Plan to bring the numerous state watersheds under a more uniform policy. The development of the new plan will be designed to bring it in line with the BWSR guidelines.
Approved the Central Minnesota Jobs & Training Service’s 2017 Region 7 comprehensive economics development strategy plan. The CMJT represents Benton, Sherburne, Stearns and Wright counties.
Announced the cancellation of the Oct. 31 board meeting due to five Tuesdays in the month. Back in April, the board voted to cancel meetings from all the months with five
Adopted a resolution recommending the Minnesota Commissioner of Revenue to convey to the county a tax forfeit property in Monticello Township.
Authorized a public hearing for 9:30 a.m. at the Oct. 17 board meeting for the re-establishment of County Ditch 36 drainage system records.
Authorized signatures on a two-year law enforcement contract between the sheriff’s department and the City of Rockford.
Approved payment of $2,621 to the firm of Madden, Galanter & Hansen for union negotiation work done on behalf of the county in August.