Hubbard County officials are turning their eyes toward the 2021 budget. Their goal is a 0 percent levy increase for the payable 2021 levy.

Hubbard County Coordinator Eric Nerness told county commissioners last week, “We have, I think, overall, a good news story.”

He pointed out that the preliminary levy was 5.9 percent in 2019 and 2020, but was ultimately whittled down to 3.5 and 4.3 percent, respectively.

“Currently, right now, without doing the pencil sharpening and everything else, we’re at 3 percent, so I have a very high degree of confidence we’ll be well south of 3 percent, and I think a 0 percent increase could be attainable,” Nerness said. “The department heads have done a really good job of scrubbing through. Of course, there’s always a little bit more scrub to be done.”

Nerness said the 2021 proposed budget is currently less than the 2020 budget.

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“I think compared to some of our sister counties we are in a very healthy place, both from a fund balance and a proposed budget perspective,” he said.

The county board was set to discuss the preliminary budget at their Aug. 11 work session.

Nerness also discussed launching the county’s strategic planning initiative “because I think we’ll be dealing with the financial effects of COVID for a while. A lot of discussions with department heads are along the lines of ‘what should we do? What should we not be doing?’ I think having a strategic plan would really aid those discussions.”

Nerness will invite two consultants to the board’s Sept. 8 work session to discuss their respective approaches and proposals for a strategic plan for Hubbard County.