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Goodhue County moves forward on 3.3% levy increase

RED WING — Residents had fewer concerns over the tax levy than commissioners during Tuesday's Goodhue County truth-in-taxation hearing.

The county has approved a $28.9 million preliminary levy, an increase of $932,915 over 2015. The preliminary budget for 2016 is set at $59.1 million, almost $5 million more than this year's budget.

The preliminary levy is a 3.33 percent increase over the 2015 levy, but estimates provided at the hearing project residents' property taxes will actually go down slightly in 2016. According to the presentation at the truth-in-taxation hearing on Tuesday, estimated taxes for a $150,000 house in the county will be $539.79 in 2016, down nearly $5 from the tax last year as a result of increased taxable property value in the county.

"The fortunate thing with the tax rate going down is every parcel pays less and we generate more tax money," Board Chairman Ted Seifert said.

There has been a lot of debate by county commissioners over this year's budget and tax levy. At past meetings, some commissioners have shared their hopes of keeping the final levy flat, and proposed cuts that would reduce staffing or services.


In October, the county almost rejected an 80-acre land gift for a new park from a Kenyon philanthropist as part of the levy discussions. Commissioners opposing the gift cited the costs to the county, including $25,000 to develop a master plan.

Only one member of the public spoke during the hearing, asking about where things were with proposed cuts. County Administrator Scott Arneson said the county will be hiring some positions more slowly than previous plans and refurbishing some equipment to keep capital expenditures down. The budget is now balanced with the 3.3 percent levy increases, he said, without reducing any services provided to residents.

"A reasonable tax rate is important for growing the county," Seifert said.

Commissioner Dan Anderson continued to voice concerns he has over the budget, which he said does not put away money for future needs or take into account upcoming large capital expenditures in 2017 and 2018.

"We did not plan forward," he said during the hearing.

The Goodhue County Board plans on approving the final budget during its Dec. 15 meeting. The final tax levy cannot go up from the preliminary amount, but it can go down.

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