Goodhue commissioner: Flat levy in 2016 is 'rash and misguided'
RED WING — Goodhue County Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel is attempting to make good on his promise to hold his fellow commissioners' "feet to the fire" following last month's contentious debate over a flat levy in 2016.
In a letter sent to the county board before Tuesday's regular meeting, Rechtzigel calls a flat levy "rash and misguided" , especially in light of the board's unanimous approval of more than $1 million of new spending in 2016. The letter was made public Friday afternoon when the board agenda was posted online.
Rechtzigel is demanding that the three commissioners who support a flat levy — Jason Majerus, Ron Allen and Ted Seifert — provide a detailed list of programs and services they want cut in order to achieve their goal of not raising taxes. He proposed a deadline of Aug. 18. Last month, Majerus, Allen and Seifer directed staff to provide a list of recommended cuts, which prompted a harsh rebuke from Rechtzigel and commissioner Brad Anderson.
Rechtzigel likened a flat levy in the current financial conditions to taking heroin to feel happy.
"Sorry to be blunt, but this is artificial," he said.
Rechtzigel wants a public hearing on Sept. 1 where the public can comment on any proposed cuts, which could include many popular programs and services.
"It is simply a matter of being fair," Rechtzigel wrote in the letter. "Our constituents have a right to express how our actions will impact quality of life in Goodhue County."
Majerus was elected last fall after campaigning as a budget hawk who felt taxes were too high. He made the motion for a flat levy during the board's meeting held July 1 at the Cannon Valley Fair. It prompted a lengthy, often heated, debate at a rural venue where substantive items are rarely discussed.
When pressed by Rechtzigel, Majerus defended his proposal that asked staff to identify potential cuts.
"They're going to have to dig down deep, just like everyone else," Majerus said.
Goodhue County Finance Director Carolyn Holmsten responded to that discussion by telling the county board that she doesn't see a way to make a flat levy work. With a flat levy, Holmsten's projecting a $2.4 million budget gap.