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A modest levy increase by the county

The McLeod County Board approved a 2.73 percent property tax increase for 2016, the first time it has raised its levy since 2010.
The levy increase will provide the county with an additional $500,000 in revenue. As was pointed out at the Dec. 15 County Board meeting, the increase will not likely be felt by most residents, especially if their property values stayed the same or declined.
A property tax increase is never popular and, as Commissioner Doug Krueger pointed out, perhaps the county should be doing more to curtail spending.
One needs to remember that the county has been able to hold the line on its levy because it had built up significant reserve funds. Those reserves helped pay expenses during the years that the county declined to increase the property tax levy. In fact, the county will continue to dip into its reserves in 2016, despite the proposed levy increase.
But the levy hike was still needed.
The county has a huge issue looming in 2016 — the implementation of a compensation study that will have a yet unknown impact on the wages and benefits for county employees.
The study may result in increased wages for most employees. Even without the study, the county has become well aware that wages paid to McLeod County employees lag behind those of the western metro-area counties, with which McLeod County competes.
At nearly every meeting, the County Board deals with the need to hire employees for vacancies created when current employees leave for greener pastures.
One hopes that the additional $500,000 will be adequate as the compensation study is implemented, as well as any emergency expenses that may arise.
And we hope that the County Board heeds Krueger’s call to continue to examine its spending. While the county has run very efficiently in recent years, it needs to start rebuilding its reserves. And that will take a combination of a greater examination of its spending and possible future levy hikes.
It’s a delicate balancing act, and we trust that the County Board will give it its full attention and scrutiny.