All commissioners were present at the Dec. 4 Watonwan County board meeting. The regularly scheduled meeting was pushed back to 7 p.m. in order to include the truth in taxation public hearing.

All commissioners were present at the Dec. 4 Watonwan County board meeting. The regularly scheduled meeting was pushed back to 7 p.m. in order to include the truth in taxation public hearing.

A truth in taxation meeting addresses budget and tax levy concerns or issues.

“I’d like to keep it at least a little bit interesting for you guys,” said Watonwan County Auditor Don Kuhlman. “This meeting is meant to provide more of an overview of what’s going on with taxation.”

The state sets exclusion levels and an assessor establishes the overall market value of properties. Whether your home is priced more than or less than $500,000 will determine how much the property is taxed. More than $500,000 will be a 1.25 percent taxation, less than that amount will be a one percent taxation.

Ag and homestead taxation will differ and may see a higher tax rate in 2013 due to a change in state exclusion levels.

Ag makes up 75 percent of the total tax capacity for Watonwan County.
“They don’t have as large a capacity in those small cities anymore, so their rates are incredibly high,” said Kuhlman.

Watonwan County is getting less state aid, which is taking a toll on the budget. One result has been a slight raise in taxation on property in Watonwan County.

“The proposed levy is up 5 percent, we are still about $350,000 short of having a balanced budget.” said Kuhlman.

Roger Risser spoke at the public hearing, discussing the road and bridge budget, which is down a little bit for 2013. They are not anticipating the state aid they have received in the past. They have six major road and bridge construction projects planned for 2013. Their budget is a little more than five hundred million, but most of that budget, about four hundred million, comes from the state.

“We generally work determined by how much money we get from the state,” said Kuhlman.

Rich Collins, the human services director also spoke at the taxation public hearing.

“There is very little state and federal funding,” said Collins. “We’re going to see state funding to many mandated services reduced by 47 percent in the upcoming years. We have to raise property taxes to make up for that shortcoming.”

Still, Collins remains optimistic that services will not be reduced due to budget constraints.

“One reason we are able to stay afloat is because we have very skilled staff in the human services department,” says Collins.

The regular meeting was called to order after the close of the truth in taxation hearing. Minutes were approved as written from the Nov. 20 meeting and all training requests were approved. Motion to approve the funds available notice for the 2013 employment and training programs was approved unanimously.

The FEDER bill totaling $15,595 which indicates the final payment minus $1,000 pursuant the successful use in spring 2013 of the air conditioning units installed was approved unanimously. The payments which totaled about $45,000 to FEDER were the result of improvements to the venting, heating and cooling of the Watonwan County Courthouse.

Risser of the Public Works Department reported that the DNR, after the public hearing last Tuesday, approved the sale of land which is necessary for Watline trail construction. Watonwan County Commissioners approved the motion to submit the payment of $18,817.14 to the DNR for the land unanimously.

The reconstruction project of the horizontal curve south of Grogan was approved unanimously, as written and approved by the residents of Grogan.

The city of St. James requested an agreement to purchase diesel and unleaded fuel on a cooperative basis with a surcharge of 15 cents per gallon. The fuel will be used for St. James city vehicles. The St. James agreement mimics the standing MNDOT agreement for fuel usage. This is a perpetual agreement, but can be terminated with thirty days written notice.

Commissioner Mark Rentz compared the agreement to lending a friend your car.

“I’m going to use your vehicle because you aren’t using it anyway,” says Commissioner Mark Rentz “It’s nice to be warm and friendly, but what would it cost you to build your own? There are so many miniscule things that come up; I just want to make sure we aren’t getting short changed.”

The commissioners want to ensure that the surcharge will cover the pump, equipment, administrative and maintenance costs.

“We’d like to get the cost established before we make it an annual renewal,” says Commissioner Scott Sanders.

The motion to approve the contract of St. James and MNDOT at a 15 percent surcharge, changing the contract from a perpetual contract to a two year contract was approved unanimously.