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County Board proposes 7% levy hike for ’18

The McLeod County Board of Commissioners set a preliminary 2018 levy at $21.11 million Tuesday, a 7 percent increase over its 2017 levy of $19.73 million.
The County Board and its administration offered a summary sheet outlining the need for the increase, citing unfunded federal and state mandates, the ramifications of a market study on positions and wages, rising health care costs, rising Social Services costs and increasing utility and maintenance costs.
County Auditor-Treasurer Cindy Schultz noted that in lean years, the county held down its levy and spent down its reserves to cover costs.
Looking back, there was a 2.95 percent levy increase in 2010, after which there was no increase until 2016, when the levy was increased 2.73 percent. It was increased 5 percent in 2017.
Schultz said that while the county was able to spare taxpayers increases during the recession, it was aware that it would not always be able to spend reserves to make up for a lack of new revenue.
“We knew in 2012, 13, 14 and 15 that a day of reckoning would come, and I think we’re here,” said Schultz.
If the county wanted to continue with its 2017 levy, it would need to spend $1.7 million in reserves in 2018.
In its summary of needs, it was noted that the county is anticipating spending about $1.2 million in new personnel costs resulting from its 2016 market study. The last market study was conducted and implemented about 20 years ago, said County Administrator Pat Melvin, and an update was overdue. The new market study grew out of a realization that the county was failing to retain good employees or attract prime candidates for jobs because of its salary schedule.
For more about the county's proposed levy increase, see the Sept. 27 print edition of The Chronicle.