The Hubbard County Board approved a preliminary payable 2020 levy of $15,855,000 at their Sept. 17 meeting.

That’s an $848,000, or 5.9 percent, increase over the 2019 final levy of $15,007,000.

County commissioner Char Christenson reminded the board that labor negotiations are just beginning and insurance costs remain unclear. While there’s still time to refine the budget, “I personally don’t want to use reserves,” she said.

“There are opportunities over the next eight to 10 weeks to make further refinements and adjustments,” agreed Hubbard County Coordinator Eric Nerness. He gave an example from his own department’s budget, saying he reduced the contingency fund in the $10,000 to $12,000 range. “I think other departments have those same opportunities.

The proposed 2020 budget projects general fund revenue of $16,070,186 and expenses of $16,064,888. Road and bridge fund revenue is estimated at $11,617,900, with $11,747,780 in expenditures. Next year’s revenue for Social Services is calculated at $7,414,068, with $6,547,071 in expenses. The Solid Waste fund projects $3,795,500 in revenues and $3,807,913 in expenses. Tax-forfeited land revenue is estimated at $2,145,120, with $2,323,476 in expenditures.

Auditor/Treasurer Kay Rave said the budget includes a $25,000 local match to repair the roof on the historic courthouse; $10,000 for the North Country Food Bank; $10,000 for Hubbard in Prevention Coalition and the security checkpoint deputy position.

County commissioner Tom Krueger asked about funding for the library.

For 2020, Rave said $215,968 is currently budgeted.

Krueger noted that the library hadn’t received its full request in the past.

“Part of that was to whittle down the levy,” Christenson said.

“They had to cut services,” Krueger said.

“That’s how it is all the way around,” said board chair Dan Stacey.

County commissioner David De La Hunt inquired about the health of the county’s reserves.

Rave said reserves are at 49 percent, and 35 to 50 percent is the recommended amount.

“My thought is, being that our reserves are right at the top of the health scale, why set this (levy) much higher than it has to be?” De La Hunt asked. “We’re probably pretty safe at the figure that we have.”

Nerness said he expected a “good reduction” in the county’s budget over the next month or two.

Krueger asked how a 5.9 percent levy increase would impact the average taxpayer.

Rave said that taxes will definitely increase, “but we were surprised last year because our tax capacity went up an addition $1.5 million. Normally, we see a $500,000 increase in that tax capacity.”

The increased tax capacity kept the 4.9 percent levy increase in payable 2019 “relatively stable” by spreading the cost across a bigger base, she said.

Hopefully, Simonson’s will begin construction – that’s tax capacity, Rave continued. “I just heard there may be a new building for the Enbridge pipeline. Every time we see that, that’s tax capacity, that’s growth.”

Christenson said Minnesota’s tax system is so complex that one needs a computer to analyze the tax impact on an individual.

The motion to set the preliminary levy passed unanimously.\u0009

The board set the preliminary Housing & Redevelopment Authority levy at $170,000, the same as last year.

“This organization does a lot for this community, as far as housing goes, and we’re moving forward into workforce housing, which is so needed,” commented Christenson.

The truth in taxation meeting, where the board will set the final levy, will be held at 6:05 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3 in the Hubbard County Government Center.