In 2008, the Redwood County Board of Commis-sioners established its payable 2009 tax levy at $10,584,934, which reflected a 14.2 percent increase over the previous levy.
Since that year the levy has remained the same, with the board approving a zero percent increase for 2010-12. That trend continued this year, as the board approved its preliminary 2013 levy at $10,584,934.
While the preliminary levy number does not become official until the county board officially certifies the levy in December, state law does not allow the county to increase the final levy over what it approves each September. In other words, when the county board approves its final levy for 2013 the number can’t be any higher than what it approved during its meeting Tuesday. The final levy number can be reduced, though.
State law requires the preliminary levy to be approved prior to Sept. 15, and according to Vicki Knobloch, county administrator, the finance committee met several times in advance of the preliminary levy vote to finalize the recommendation for the full board.
Prior to the vote to approve the zero-percent preliminary levy, a motion to increase the levy by one half of one percent was made.
That motion was defeated on a 3-2 vote. The final vote was approved 4-1 with Commissioner John Schueller voting against the preliminary levy proposal. He argued there are long-term issues to consider, as well as the increased cost of doing business.
Schueller pointed to the increased costs of fuel as an issue, adding funds are going to have to come in to address needed road improvements sooner rather than later.
Commissioner Al Kokesch said the county is in a good place right now, adding it has about $22 million in reserves which can be used to help address those issues not specifically raised in the levy.
Kokesch said Red-wood County has the 14th highest tax rate in the state, and even though that number has improved from times when it ranked in the 30s there is room to improve.
One of the most significant areas where improvement has been made has to do with the county’s decision to join Southwest Health and Human Services.
Through that move, the county’s human services levy was reduced by nearly 15 percent, with the public health budget being reduced by 43 percent.
Commissioner Sharon Hollatz said so much of the levy dollars are focused on reacting to problems, while she thinks more of their efforts ought to focus on being proactive and investing in programs.
While the levy number is essentially set, how the numbers within that levy are allocated are still a matter for future debate. Kokesch added he is glad programs, such as restorative justice and RSVP could be included in the levy.
The public is going to have a chance to offer input at the Truth in Taxation meeting, which is scheduled for Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. in the commissioners’ room in the county government center. All are encouraged to attend this meeting.