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Transfer station tax question to go on ballot

Commissioners struggling to prepare budget ahead of Aug. 19 deadline

Staff writer

County commissioners spent nearly six hours Monday trying to prepare a 2020 budget but still didn’t make final decisions despite a looming deadline.

However, commissioners decided to put a sales tax question on the ballot as a way to fund a new transfer station.

Consultant Scot Loyd presented two proposed budgets. One puts $282,311 of additional money that will be collected because of increases in property assessments into the general fund.

“Wherever you put these dollars, you have to make it flexible,” Loyd said.

If the extra money needs to be used for gravel road, Loyd said, he’d rather put it into the road and bridge budget with a notation that those dollars await reimbursement from the general fund. That way the money could go back to the general fund.

“I always like to put money in the general fund,” Loyd said. “That way that gives us flexibility.”

Loyd also presented a proposed budget with a $320,488 increase assigned to the road and bridge fund.

The first proposal assigned $3.3 million total to road and bridge and the second assigned $3.6 million to road and bridge.

The budget proposals total $28.8 million, and include $10.1 million in taxes levied. That amount is the same as the 2019 budget.

Commissioners also need to decide whether to fund the reconstruction of a transfer station with a sales tax, lease purchase, or cash.

Loyd said commissioners need to keep their eyes on moving pieces such as taxes on farmland set by the state.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said he liked Loyd’s second option better.

Commission chairman Kent Becker said he leans toward a lease purchase agreement for items needed.

“I disagree with both of you, naturally,” commissioner Dianne Novak said. “To me, we should borrow from ourselves.”

Loyd estimated the county has $4 to $4.5 million in borrowing power and cash carry-over has stayed flat for five years.

He also reminded commissioners that a decision must be made by the end of this week to meet the state’s requirement to publish a budget and hold a public hearing Aug. 19. Commissioners need to decide how to fund the transfer station and what they want to do with county roads.

Dallke asked if money had been added to the ambulance fund to obtain a station at Hillsboro. Loyd asked if that is a 2020 project or a 2021 project.

“We need to get these questions answered so we can move forward,” Becker said.

Loyd pointed out no vote would be needed if commissioner fund the transfer station with a lease purchase plan, but a vote will be needed to impose a sales tax

Dallke said he’d rather have a sales tax vote. Novak said she’d like to have a sales tax vote and if the vote fails, pay for the transfer station out of reserves.

Loyd and Novak debated how much commissioners should micromanage department budgets.

Novak said it is the commission’s job to make sure public money is being spent correctly.

Loyd answered that department heads are hired to do the job and they have to be given authority to do it. If they do not do their job correctly, the commission can appoint a different department head.

Commissioners will meet again today to continue budget discussions.

Last modified July 31, 2019

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