County passes 3.75 levy increase, approves budget

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Swift County’s Board of Commissioners set the overall final gross levy increase at 3.75 percent for 2019 bringing the total levy to $10,788,827. That is an increase of $389,957 over the 2018 net levy of $10,398,870.

Since 2016, when the county’s net levy was $9,773,657, it has risen by just over $1 million.

The proposed 2019 budget contains revenues of $23,997,524 and expenditures of $24,710,324, for a deficit budget of $712,800.

Taxes make up 47 percent of the county’s revenues while payments from federal and state sources make up 41 percent. Another 11 percent comes from charges for services while 1 percent comes from miscellaneous sources....

Budgeting a year-long process

“Someone is going to listen to this recording and say that the county budget, the RDA budget and the HRA budget were approved with no discussion and a unanimous vote,” Rudningen said after the county levies and budgets were approved.

How many hours have you spent looking at Swift County’s budget since September? Rudningen asked Commissioner Pederson.

Pederson said he had met with Baker a number of times on the budget. He said he has also looked at the surrounding county levy increases with Swift County at the median increase among them.

In the past, the county budgeting process has been driven by “here are our needs, this is what we need for a levy,” Pederson said. At some point, it may need to be approached from the point of, “Here is what you have - divide it up.”

“Hopefully, all commissioners, department heads and employees are mindful of what costs are,” he said. Pederson said he is hoping that a lot of money can be put into the budget reserves at the end of 2019 with that helping the county to levy for less in 2020. “That is not a new message from me, however,” he said.

All of the commissioners spend a lot of time going through the budget line by line, asking Baker questions, asking other staff questions, talking to department heads, in an effort to make the budget as reasonable as possible, Rudningen said.

 “I would say to the members of the public, the citizenry, if you have budget concerns Jan. 1 is a good time to start voicing those to commissioners and administrators because this process goes for a whole year,” Rudningen said....

Truth in Taxation hearing

Each year prior to adopting a budget and levy, all local units of government conduct a Truth in Taxation hearing to get public input. It is rare that anyone shows up for these meetings. At the Dec. 5 county TNT meeting, there were no citizens in the room.

“The Truth in Taxation hearing is a good meeting at which to explain (even though the public is not here) the budget and where our dollars are going,” Baker said. It can also help the commissioners and staff, if they do get asked, explain the county’s revenues and expenditures.

Hendrickx pointed out that back in 2005, the county received $933,229 in County Program Aid from the state. That would be $1,208,395 in today’s dollars. However, the CPA for 2019 is projected at $533,206.

“If the CPA would have kept pace with increases in inflation, it would be a much bigger piece of the revenue pie and would keep local taxes lower to provide services,” he said.

Hendrickx also pointed out there is large increases projected for revenues from charges of services from $1,567,167 to $2,651,332 – an increase of $1,084,165.

Most of the charges for services come through Environmental Services, Auditor Kim Saterbak said. Or, it could be coming from something the county is doing for townships, she said. Saterbak said she would look it up to see exactly where the increase was coming from, but she strongly suspects it is related to highway projects....


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