Wright County Commissioners have been presenting the 2019 Preliminary Budget at various meetings throughout the county.
See the 2019 preliminary budget slideshow
You can also read the details in the press release below:
Wright County Board Approves Preliminary 2019 Budget & Levy
BUFFALO, Minn. – The 2019 preliminary tax levy and budget was approved by the Wright County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, September 25. The proposed 2019 levy is projected at $73,524,014, an increase of 17.3% over 2018.
The 2019 budget of $147,090,953 is comprised of these primary areas:
General fund $70 million
Roads and bridges $35 million
Human Services $29 million
Debt service $10 million
Capital projects $2.6 million
LID projects* $112,525
*LID = Lake Improvement District. Composed of properties benefiting from a specific project.
Among the factors in this decision are:
- Increasing state mandates for programs, services and enforcement. Up to 80 percent of the County budget stems from complying with state mandates. One prime example is foster care and out-of-home placements of children and adults in the County are increasing due to substance abuse and mental health issues. The demand for multi-level mental health care services is also rising, and without addressing core issues, these factors will continue to increase law enforcement and court costs.
- The County ditch management program gained more attention in 2017. While specific project costs are shared by benefitting land owners, the state mandates that management of the recording, repairing, and replacing of drainage solutions are the County’s responsibility. Many ditches have been left in various states of disrepair for decades.
- Needed improvements to County technology, which includes recruiting and retention of staff. Plus, the need for an overall accounting system that can centralize the multiple software systems currently in use at the County. Today, these independent systems do not talk/interact with each other well.
- Several financial forecasting models for the next five years show that current issues will compound if not dealt with. Population growth is on track to increase 26 percent in the next two decades – with an increase of tax base comes an increase of needs. Wright County is the tenth largest county in Minnesota and yet ranks 84 out of 87 in per capita spending.
- Early closure or loss of re-licensure at the Monticello nuclear power plant would have a major impact on the County within the next decade. Today, the plant provides the largest tax share in the county, nearly $7M. Without this contribution, remaining taxpayers would shoulder the cost. Putting infrastructure in place now would prepare the County for this very real possibility.
- Conservative spending and delayed improvements in the past 15 years have produced a glut of needed upgrades to bring buildings into compliance. Efficiency improvements have been wait-listed.
- With the projected levy increase, the tax rate is equal, or less, than comparable neighboring counties.
Without any changes in valuation from the previous year, the proposed increase would impact citizens:
Residential property with a taxable value of $290,000 = $120.74 increase in tax
Commercial property with a taxable value of $327,300 = $240.65 increase in tax
Agriculture property with a taxable value of $340,300 = $70.65 increase in tax
The Board passed the preliminary budget and levy on a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Charlie Borrell voting against. The County Board will vote to adopt the final levy in December. The levy can be decreased before that time, but it cannot be increased.
Borrell stated he believes the increase could have been avoided had the County considered cutting back on health and human services budgeting, as well as reevaluating the need for new government buildings.
Commissioners voting to increase the budget now say they are looking to prevent a more difficult increase later.
Commissioner Mike Potter: “The County can no longer kick the can down the road. The voters want us to be thinking of the big picture.”
Commissioner Christine Husom: “In our effort to keep the levy low for years, we weren’t keeping up with rising costs and needed improvements. We need to make the correction, so we can level off and avoid another spike like this in the future.
Commissioner Darek Vetsch: “We want to be forward-thinking vs. reactive. We can’t stay at the bottom for spending and be at the top for growth.”
Commissioner Mark Daleiden: “This is the maximum the levy can be, and we will continue to work to reduce the final levy in December.”
Truth in Taxation
A Truth in Taxation public hearing has been set for 6 p.m. Dec. 6 in the board room of the Government Center in Buffalo.
For even more detail, the Auditor/Treasurer page has 2019 preliminary budget documents.