Following a number of discussions in recent months, the Redwood County Board of Commissioners officially adopted the proposed 2020, payable 2021 tax levy.

The board was required to approve and submit a preliminary levy by the end of September, and at a special meeting held Sept. 24, the commissioners unanimously approved a proposed levy of $13,676,622, which represents a 5.5 percent increase over the actual 2020 levy.

Lon Walling, county commissioner, reminded the board that the levy it set Sept. 24 is not the final number, as the board will certify the final levy for the coming year in December.

In the meantime, work will continue toward reducing the levy. 

The bulk of the proposed levy for 2021 is in wages, salaries and benefits, indicated Vicki Kletscher, county administrator during an earlier meeting as the board discussed its options leading up to the Sept. 24 preliminary levy adoption.

Even with a proposed 5.5 percent increase, the board was told that to make it work there will need to be some personnel reductions in 2021. The board is currently looking at cutting two-and-a-half positions.

Without making any personnel changes, the county would be looking at closer to a 6.6 percent increase.

Of the anticipated $13 million budget for 2021, the salaries, benefits and wages makes up more than $9.7 million. That is the reality for a service providing industry.

Another major area of the levy is in its debt service payment.

The increase it approved is based on its final decision whether or not to move forward with the courthouse project. The annual payment for that project would increase the levy by more than $230,000.

The proposed 5.5 percent increase follows a 3.6 percent increase in 2020 and a 3 percent increase in 2019.

The county did reduce its building fund from $1.1 million to $975,000 for 2021.

Walling recognized times are tough right now for a lot of people, and he committed to keep looking for ways to get the levy down.

He hopes the final increase is closer to 5.3 percent.