The Waseca County Board of Commissioners decided to increase the preliminary levy for 2021 by 2.25% Tuesday at its meeting.
A levy increase of 2.25% for a median residential homestead, estimated at $135,200, means a little more than an 8% increase or around $55 a year. For a mid-size commercial/industrial building with an estimated market value of $532,00, that means a possible increase of around $320 per year or around an 8.3% increase. For agriculture with an estimated market value of $6,575 an acre there will be a decrease between .75 and .85 after the estimated market value dipped from $6,921 for 2020. Meanwhile, for a mid-sized apartment with an estimated market value of $891,565, there will be an increase of around $390 a year after an increase of more than 6.2%, if the county board approves the final increase of 2.25%
The board must set a preliminary levy by Sept. 30 and it cannot raise that amount, it can however, lower the levy amount before adopting a final levy for 2021.
County Administrator Michael Johnson provided the board four options to mull: a levy increase of .09% with a capital improvement project implication of $600,000; a 1.28% increase with a CIP implication of $800,000, a 2.7% increase with a $1.04 million CIP impact; and a 3.2% increase with a $1.129 million CIP impact.
The board initially considered a 2.7% increase but it garnered no support when the vote took place. Instead, Commissioner Brian Harguth presented the idea of a 2.25% increase, which equals around $376,000, after the board had trouble with the $1.04 million dedicated to the CIP. Under a 2.25% increase, that number decreases to $962,178. The 2.7% plan originally levied $200,000 for CIP, $200,000 for CARES Act cost protections, $440,000 for any CIP scheduled for 2022 that need expediting and $200,000 for fuel tank replacement at the Waseca County Fairgrounds and construction at the highway building, scheduled for 2023.
The CIP money would fund improvements to salt storage sheds in Janesville and New Richland, a mobile command center and enclosed trailer for the Waseca County Sheriff’s Office, and replacement of the East Annex building roof, which is over 30 years old.
The 2021 operating budget for the county will decrease $585,473 from 2020.
The county board will meet again Oct. 6. Notice of proposed property taxes must be sent beginning Nov. 10 and delivered by Nov. 24. The final 2020 levy and budget will be decided at the Dec. 3 meeting.
The 2021 preliminary tax capacity is at a little more than $26 million, an increase of .73% from 2020.
The Waseca County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve updated language to the business subsidy and tax abatement agreement with Conagra, the parent company of Birds Eye Foods, for a proposed new facility.
Originally, the tax abatement agreement stipulated that it would not exceed $2 million over a 20-year period. The county board agreed to change that figure to $2.65 million after a Tuesday public hearing.
The tax abatement will not exceed 65% of the county’s share of property taxes based on an improvement value of $14 million. The square footage total for the proposed facility has fluctuated during the planning stage and the $14 million mark covers those changes. The revised abatement also eliminated language that the abatement would not exceed $100,000 in a given year and changed the terms from 2022-2042 to 2023-2042.
With the $14 million figure, Johnson said Conagra will not challenge the county in tax court.
“We’ve seen a lot of businesses in Waseca close,” Commissioner Blair Nelson said. “It’s important to lock down one of the last anchors in Waseca. We’re open for business here. You all did a good job holding Birds Eye in town.”
Sheriff’s Department squad cars
The county board also approved the purchase of six new squad cars for the Waseca County Sheriff’s Office at a total cost of $218,040. Each squad was quoted at $36,340.
Waseca County Sheriff Brad Milbrath anticipates the squads will arrive early next year, which became more important following an incident where two squads crashed into each other following a pursuit of a motorist.
Steele-Waseca Drug Court
The board also agreed to an amended agreement with Steele-Waseca Drug Court to provide an additional $20,275. The board previously approved the cooperative agreement for $169,000 but unexpected costs necessitated an increase.
Waseca County COVID-19 Small Business and Non-Profit Relief Grant Program
The county approved awarding an additional 41 businesses grants from the Waseca County COVID-19 Small Business and Non-Profit Relief Grant Program.
A total of $309,500 has been awarded from the $500,000 the county set aside for the grant program, Johnson said.
The program runs through September and the county has until December to use the $2.2 million it received from the state.