County board approves initial tax levy increase

Published 10:11 am Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners approved a 2.5 percent preliminary budget levy increase Tuesday for 2017.

The increase passed on a 4-1 vote. Commissioners Glen Mathiason, Jim Nelson, Mike Lee and Chris Shoff voted yes. Dan Belshan voted no.

Dan Belshan

Dan Belshan

The levy would increase taxes about $8 on a $100,000 residential homestead property. Taxes would increase about $30 on commercial property valued at $200,000 and decrease about 82 cents on an average acre of tillable ag land due to a decrease in ag land value.

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Belshan said Freeborn County is already generating revenue from recently-implemented funding mechanisms, such as through the sales tax and wheelage tax.

“I question the need for a 2.5 percent increase when we have an increase in revenue of 10 percent in the last 10 years,” Belshan said, noting that Freeborn County would still see an increase in revenue even if the tax levy was not increased.

Shoff said Freeborn County does not have money from the sales tax implemented in August 2015 yet. He said despite the funding mechanisms, Freeborn County still has a $4.5 million deficit in road funding.

Chris Shoff

Chris Shoff

“It’s not necessarily extra money, or something like that, we’re trying to catch up on those road systems,” he said.

Lee expressed concern about low-income and senior residents in Freeborn County.

“Seniors on fixed incomes, they’re hurting,” he said. “There are a lot of low-income people in this community.”

Lee said he hoped the 2.5 percent preliminary levy increase does not become final.

“I hope we will bring it down in December,” he said.

The final levy will be set Dec. 20.

Freeborn County Administrator John Kluever said last week the preliminary levy increase was due to a lack of state funding, especially for the Freeborn County Department of Human Services and general government operations.

The 2017 general fund budget, which is balanced, also passed on a 4-1 vote, with Belshan voting no.

A public hearing is scheduled for Dec. 1.

In other action, the board:

Appointed David Walker as Freeborn County attorney, effective Oct. 1. Walker will replace Craig Nelson, who will retire after 25 years as county attorney.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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